Their findings, published in a study – “Stretching the Bounds of 3D Printing with Embedded Textiles” – consider the “new design space” opened up by combining the two fields. The techniques, they say, “demonstrate how the malleability, stretchability and aesthetic qualities of textiles can enhance rigid printed objects, and how textiles can be augmented with functional properties enabled by 3D printing.”
According to reports, the researchers experimented with an Ultimaker 3D printer to both print plastic elements onto fabric and to embed fabric in between layers of 3D printed plastic. They also looked at how “functional properties” could be added to textiles using 3D printing.
Some of the objects created included textile embedded input devices, such as a reusable displacement sensor that allows for quick fabrication and testing of custom actuation mechanisms, a retractable slider, a knob, and a pressure sensitive button. Also fabricated were a box with a textile-embedded lid that rolls open upon actuation, a six-panel fabric lampshade that accommodates a light bulb in one panel, and a flexible watchband that incorporates four different plastics, two layers of fabric, and a magnetic clasp.
Limitations noted by the researchers included the tendency of some of the textiles to stretch over time, as well as potential durability issues. Choosing different materials and/or reinforcing the problem spots with extra layers of fabric may mitigate these problems, they say.
Overall say the researchers, their techniques “create objects that can meet a wider range of human needs by encompassing more pleasing materials and larger sizes than typical consumer-grade 3D prints. In addition, the ability to easily enhance arbitrarily shaped physical objects with interactivity opens new avenues for exploration in clothing-based input sensors and the design of compliant mechanisms and other soft functional parts.”
For more, see “Stretching the Bounds of 3D Printing with Embedded Textiles.” (PDF)
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