3D printing has revolutionized several industries in recent years, and now it is transforming the textile production sector. The key role 3D printing technology is playing in the modern textile industry.
I. What is 3D printing?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is an innovative manufacturing technology that has quickly become one of the most important manufacturing methods. In this process, products are built layer by layer based on a specific computer-aided design. Over the past few decades, several different types of 3D printing processes have been developed, including fused deposition modeling, stereolithography, selective laser sintering, selective laser melting, digital light processing, and fused filament manufacturing.
3D printing methods offer several advantages over traditional manufacturing, including cost effectiveness, short time, energy savings, significant reduction in material waste, and high design freedom. The use of these methods has been widely explored and 3D printing technologies have been widely implemented in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, aerospace industry and construction.
How can 3D printing help the textile industry?
The field of 3D printed fabrics is in its infancy, and there are significant advantages to using 3D printing to produce textiles. The textile industry is a major consumer of water and material resources, adding a significant burden to the environment. The unsustainability of the global textile industry is now becoming increasingly evident, and scientists are constantly exploring new ways to transform the industry.
3D textile printing has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of resources needed to produce fabrics for uses such as apparel and furniture. Processes can be streamlined, using fewer raw materials, chemicals and water.
In addition, the use of 3D printing methods can significantly reduce the amount of waste generated.
Other benefits include reduced energy requirements and carbon emissions, cost savings and enhanced design freedom.
Multi-material printing capabilities provide opportunities for advanced, innovative material designs that are not possible with traditional manufacturing techniques.
Another key innovation enabled by 3D printing is the creation of "smart" materials with embedded functionality and unique structures.
In short, 3D printing is a revolutionary solution for the textile industry.
3D printed textiles: flexibility and abrasion resistance issues
A key challenge with 3D printed textiles is their relative stiffness compared to conventionally manufactured textiles, which limits their abrasion resistance and comfort. Some 3D printed textiles have been introduced to the market in recent years, but the widespread commercial viability of these fabrics is limited by this issue.
Researchers have proposed solutions to overcome this limitation and make 3D printed fabrics stretchable, soft and flexible. The three main approaches are printing flexible structural units, printing fibers, and printing on textiles.
Several studies have explored this issue, offering different avenues for fully flexible and wearable 3D printed fabrics. For example, certain researchers have explored the development of fabrics with lockjaw structures, geometric structures, and bionic structures. Other researchers have explored the deposition of 3D printed polymers directly onto traditional fabrics to produce fabrics with unique structures and functions.
New Research on 3D Printed Fabrics
In recent years, knitwear has been produced around the world, but the process of producing garments using traditional knitting methods is very resource-intensive and significantly increases the carbon footprint of the textile industry. Research has been conducted on 3D knitwear, and companies such as New Industrial Order have developed machines that can 3D print single fibers. This technology promises to increase the recyclability of garment manufacturing. Clothes can be made to order, saving costs, materials, energy and waste. Seamless construction allows reuse of yarns to make new garments.
MIT's work on soft fabrics: MIT researchers develop soft fabrics with TPU. They focused on developing a new structure for printing materials. The researchers were inspired by collagen, one of the main proteins in biological organisms, which has an interwoven structure that provides enhanced flexibility and strength. The researchers propose that their innovation could be used in the textile industry as well as in the medical field, such as cardiovascular stents, surgical meshes and stents.
Producing 3D printed fabrics with enhanced cooling: Scientists at the University of Maryland have developed 3D printed materials with advanced cooling capabilities. The material's innovative structure, consisting of polyvinyl alcohol and boron nitride, maximizes thermal conductivity, drawing heat into the material in one way and out the other. In essence, this turns the fabric into a low-cost, non-powered air conditioner for sportswear and everyday clothing.
NASA's Scale Maille project: The field of space exploration needs materials that can handle harsh and extreme environments. NASA, which is at the forefront of 3D printing technology, has been seeking to develop fabrics that can enhance insulation and protect against the harsh environment of outer space. It is similar to scale maille, with enhanced thermal control, flexibility, foldability and strength. Geometric shapes and functions can be printed, and NASA scientists call it "4D printing".
Materials with enhanced protective properties: A study by Wang et al. used selective laser sintering to produce an innovative 3D printed protective material. The material consists of interlocking particles that can switch between a soft, pliable, wear-resistant state and a hardened, protective state. When pressure is applied, these particles interlock and form a stiff chain armor-like structure that is 25 times stiffer than its relaxed state. Analysis shows that in this hardened state, the material can withstand loads that exceed thirty times the weight of the material.
3D printed electronic material: Zhang et al. have used 3D printing to create a conductive material. The material consists of a conductive core of carbon nanotubes and a dielectric sheath of filamentous proteins. This smart material can be used in a variety of bioelectric harvesting fabrics for wearable electronic devices.
3D printing offers some innovative solutions for the textile industry and related fields. Although still in its infancy, many solutions have been provided for current commercial needs, thus demonstrating the potential of 3D printing in this field. As the field evolves, the manufacturing of 3D printed fabrics will undoubtedly continue to innovate to its fullest potential.