The San Francisco-based team behind the revolutionary Electroloom 3D Clothing Printer wants to open the world of fashion design and manufacturing to everyone. Someday, anyone will be able to conjure up a custom outfit, set their handy Electroloom, and in minutes, pull out the finished product and wear it!
Last year, Electroloom successfully raised over $82,000 on Kickstarter and literally redefined “fast fashion.” Capable of 3D printing seamless, ready-to-wear garments based on custom 3D geometries, the Electroloom has been garnering attention from every industry from fashion design to materials scientists to at-home makers. This 3D printer uses an electrospinning technique to turn a liquid (currently a custom polyester/cotton blend) into a seamless fabric, spraying the solution onto a shaped mold to create a garment without any cutting or stitching.
This spinning process, called Field Guided Fabrication, uses an internal electric field inside the printer chamber to guide fibers onto whatever shape the maker wishes to create. Because the 3D printed fabric is created from a multitude of tiny nano-fibers, the fabric flexes and drapes like traditionally woven fabrics.
The Electroloom has many other advantages over the traditional fabric making process, including environmental benefits. At the Electroloom website, the team notes: “In our Kickstarter campaign, we showed you a glimpse at some of our very early experiments with creating colored fabric using the electrospinning process. Traditional fabric dying is a very resource-intensive process that generates a lot of waste, and uses a tremendous amount of water, so we’ve hoped to improve that by dying our fibers directly as they electrospin. Nik, our material scientist, recently whipped up a new blend of pigments that are compatible with our process, and we finally managed to create vibrant colors in a single step. This fabric was created exactly as you see it: no secondary dyeing, water usage, or post-processing needed. The garments we create with Electroloom use 292 times less water than a traditionally manufactured garment (according to an upcoming Harvard Meta-Life Cycle Inventory Analysis regarding Electroloom, Li 2016). This statistic hopefully helps paint a picture of the enormous waste present in modern textile production, and demonstrates the efficiencies of our electrospinning process.”
As the company shipped out its first batch of Alpha units, they also unveiled the Electroloom Mini, a smaller-sized machine that can 3D print fibrous and flexible fabric in under 20 minutes. The Electroloom Mini uses the same electrospinning to create small 2D or 3D nonwoven textiles. The company works with customers to create and ship custom molds that can meet a customer’s needs. This tool creates submicron, nano-diameter fibers, and is compatible with a variety of materials and solvents. It has a standard 110V plug; an internal syringe pump that accepts up to four standard 30 mL syringes; and connects to a computer via USB. Voltage, flow rate, power, etc. are controlled via downloadable software compatible with Windows and Mac.
For researchers, this is a low-cost, plug-and-play option for nanofiber production. The equipment is well-suited for research in tissue engineering and filtration. Perfect for students, new labs, and anyone looking to work with nanoscale production techniques without having to design and build it. For makers, this is a tool to create custom shaped and colored fabrics. They provide users with polyester/cellulose solution with a variety of color options including pink, purple, blue, and white.
You can now buy small samples of Electroloom fabric at their website store (www.electroloom.com/store). Samples are a blend of polyester and cellulose and are described as feeling somewhere between suede and leather. Samples are 4 in. x 4 in. sheets offered in your choice of white ($40) or blue ($45).