Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Every single morning, we wake up, we look at our closet and despite it is full of clothes we feel that we have absolutely nothing to wear. According to the Italian philosopher Seneca, “we live not according to reason, but according to fashion” .
The technology behind additive manufacturing
The terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) are interchangeable . The AM process begins with a 3D model of an object that is usually created with computer-aided design (CAD) software. This 3D model is then sliced into cross-sectional layers through specialized software that creates and sends a computer file to the AM machine . The 3D printer then starts to gradually build the object layer upon layer from the data in the computer file .
Applications in the fashion industry
The consulting firm McKinsey predicts full consumer adoption of 3D printing by 2025 . Apart from 3D printing at home, AM machines have also been used by fashion designers for rapid and cheap prototyping . As technology is getting more advanced, 3D printing is increasingly utilized in industrial manufacturing where final products like shoe soles are made (see image 2).
Opportunities and challenges
One major benefit of AM is that it allows to customize and personalize products according to customer’s needs : Think of shoes tailored to the wearer’s feet, for example . Fashion items can also be produced on-demand, which makes fashion companies more agile, significantly reduces their need for inventories and markdowns . The AM process also creates less waste, as only the needed material is used .
On the flip side, 3D printing in the luxury industry eliminates the need for traditional craftsmanship . No surprise that luxury houses have been particularly averse to 3D printing . The technology is also too slow for mass production and needs to become faster . At the moment, only plastics, resins, and metal can be used as raw materials in 3D printing – cotton cannot yet be used .
3D printing will likely heavily disrupt the fashion and luxury industry with design and manufacturing potentially transformed. The future success and adoption of 3D printing will probably depend on the ability to process different materials. Once solved, I am convinced that the future of fashion is 3D.
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