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Sustainable 3D Printed Fabric: DefeXtiles

Luftkuss Atelier

3D printing technology made it possible to reborn and reuse undreamed objects from transforming plastic waste in the oceans into a more efficient item, to designing 3D printed clothes, or to building a house. 

Despite offering such a wide range of usage, it has an undesirable flow that 3D printers create gaps caused by printing errors, especially in works that require meticulousness. DefeXtiles, developed by MIT Media Lab, turns this flaw into an advantage and paves the way for the rapid and inexpensive production of flexible polymer textiles.

No 3D waste with DefeXtiles

DefeXtiles, which takes advantage of the error of 3D printing machines to produce high-tech textiles, uses the printing error caused by incomplete extrusion, which occurs in the most common and cheapest FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) type printers, to create a fabric-like structure. In this type of printing, the production is carried out by adding a thermoplastic layer by layer on the printing table. 

After the layers accumulated in this production process cool and fuse together, they turn into a solid object. However, due to a defect in the printer or programming, not enough raw material is injected in some layers, and therefore, tiny gaps are formed in the plot of the products.

DefeXtiles from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.

MIT Media Lab graduate student Jack Forman creates the program that causes printers to under-extrude, creating tiny columns of polymer plastic that bind strands of thin polymers together. Thanks to these gaps, it is possible to obtain a flexible and thin form just like a jersey fabric.

DefeXtiles is smaller than 0.4 mm and has an extremely thin form. In terms of taking the form of a thin and flexible mesh, it offers a thin structure like tulle and a flexible form fabric like jersey. Therefore, it is possible to print from tiny pieces to meters of fabric strips and to pack and ship these products without taking up too much space.

Among the products produced so far, products in different forms were created, such as a skirt, a conductive lampshade, translucent sheets, and lace varieties, which emerged in less than 30 hours and can be used as one piece after printing.

Sustainable approach for sustainable fashion

The DefeXtiles team aims to transform fashion by drastically reducing waste. For example, instead of preventing waste of fabric in product design, it is possible to first create a prototype of the product with a 3D printer, melt the raw material after the prototypes are completed and reuse it in a new project. Another cause of unnecessary waste in the fashion industry is products returned as a result of online shopping. According to a recent study from the MIT Media Lab, 20 percent to 60 percent of clothes purchased online are returned back.

Inspired by the 4D printing approach, testing the full-length patterns of the garments allows the user to try the product before buying it, while fashion designers have the chance to physically see and examine their ideas before going into production.

Due to the widespread use, accessibility and relatively inexpensive cost of FDM printers, this production technique is expected to be an easy solution for millions of people. Thanks to the fact that no additional software or hardware is needed and the product is used repeatedly, the continuity of the sustainable production process is ensured.

Insprad Creative Agency

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