3D Fashion project set to revolutionize clothing industry

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The collaborative project aims to develop a one-step process for creating 3D-printed clothing items(Credit: Loughborough University)

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A new partnership between Loughborough University in the UK and garment manufacturer the Yeh Group aims to kick 3D printed fashion into gear. The idea is to cut out the waste of the clothing industry and hopefully arrive at the project's eventual goal, which is to provide a system for personalized, printed polymer clothing that takes just 24 hours to produce.

The clothing industry is huge, with consumers in the UK alone spending a whopping £44 billion (US$63 billion) on new garments each and every year. That consumption also generates 1.8 million tonnes (1.98 million tons) of waste material, and uses up 6.4 billion m3 of water.

Researchers at Loughborough University believe that 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, could truly revolutionize the industry. They note that while the practice of making clothes has been streamlined and manufacturing costs have been lowered, the underlying processes and techniques haven't really changed since the 19th century.

The new collaborative project is only the early stages, but the goal is to develop 3D printing technology, tailoring it to the garment industry. 3D printed textiles aren't a new concept, but the process of making them requires multiple stages. One of the biggest goals of the 3D Fashion project is to streamline that process, creating technology that can produce finished garments directly from the raw materials (in this case a polymer) in a single step.

One big benefit of using additive manufacturing for making apparel and footwear is that items could be made specifically for individuals, with 3D scanners used to record data about the person, and that data then used to create bespoke pieces. This sort of technology is already starting to become more mainstream, with devices like the XYZ scanner shown off at IFA 2015.

There's certainly a lot of work to do before the project's lofty goals can become a reality, but the researchers are confident that by the end of the project, which is scheduled to last 18 months, the partnership will have come up with the one-step process needed to produce colored and finished garments.

"This landmark technology allows us as designers to innovate faster and create personalized, ready-to-wear fashion in a digital world with no geometrical constraints and almost zero waste material," said Loughborough University's Dr. Guy Bingham. "We envisage that with further development of the technology, we could 3D print a garment within 24 hours."

For more on the project, you can take a look at the video below.

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