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This NYFW Collaboration Could Signal the Future for 3D Printing

3D printing firm, Stratasys, in collaboration with threeASFOUR and designer Travis Fitch, revealed its newest printing breakthrough during New York Fashion Week—presenting a future in which complex, three-dimensional designs can be printed directly onto fabric.

The “Chro-Morpho” collection was designed and produced with the assistance of Stratasys’ J750 Polyjet printer, which the firm said can fabricate more than “500,000 combinations of colors, textures, gradients and transparencies.” Upgraded processing power allows the J750 to compute the intricate designs that can be made with this technology, resulting in a solution that, according to Stratasys, gives designers “unlimited design freedom”—and potentially opening up a scenario in which consumers could be involved in the final designs.

“There are also tangible business benefits: A single 3D printer can replace a wide variety of other manufacturing machines, from 2D-printing to embroidery, thermoforming, foiling and ultrasound,” Stratasys explained in a statement. “This saves apparel and textile makers space, cost and time, including a simpler supply chain.”

The collection was inspired by the properties of butterfly and insect wings, specifically focusing on the way such materials reflect light. Naturally, this was an impressive way for Stratasys, threeASFOUR and Fitch to showcase the possibilities of the printing technology.

“One Greta-Oto dress from the collection, for example, uses a Stratasys-engineered lenticular effect to play with light and color,” Stratasys said. “By printing spherical, fish scale-sized cells made of photopolymers directly onto polyester fabric, the color of the dress shifts with each small movement. The thousands of cells on the dress’s 27 parts consist of a clear lens with strips of color contained inside. 3D-printing [took] approximately 17 hours.”

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In recent years, 3D printing has made its presence increasingly known in fashion. In May, Zac Posen brought a 3D-printed collection to the Met Gala to showcase the creative ways designer brands could use the technology. However, Stratasys said the J750’s ability to print directly on the fabric could be the key to “unlocking 3D printing’s commercial viability in the fashion industry.”

“Within the next two years, I believe consumers will be able to purchase an array of 3D-printed garments from high-fashion brands,” Stratasys art, design and fashion director Naomi Kaempfer said. “And the result will be access to an explosion of unique color and texture combinations that are simply not possible through traditional methods.”

Stratasys called the project a “significant step” in its work to bring the world of fashion and 3D printing together, starting with high-fashion and eventually bringing the merger to large-scale production. Already, Stratasys has partnered with Iris van Herpen and, in another project, worked with Pantone to introduce its extensive color library into the new printing system.

After its appearance on the runway in New York, the collection will go on tour to museums throughout the U.S., taking up residence at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in October before moving on to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Art Institute of Chicago in 2020.