3D Printing

3D printing is a technology that is a bit foreign to many. This is mostly due to the fact that 3D printing has yet to be easily available to the everyday consumer, unless you have been playing around with the 3D drawling pen. 3D printing is a technology that has endless potential and it appears that Disney is taking 3D printing to the next level.

A few researchers have created a layered fabric 3D printer for soft interactive objects. According to the Disney Research website:

We present a new type of 3D printer that can form precise, but soft and deformable 3D objects from layers of off-the-shelf fabric. Our printer employs an approach where a sheet of fabric forms each layer of a 3D object. The printer cuts this sheet along the 2D contour of the layer using a laser cutter and then bonds it to previously printed layers using a heat sensitive adhesive. Surrounding fabric in each layer is temporarily retained to provide a removable support structure for layers printed above it. This process is repeated to build up a 3D object layer by layer. Our printer is capable of automatically feeding two separate fabric types into a single print. This allows specially cut layers of conductive fabric to be embedded in our soft prints. Using this capability we demonstrate 3D models with touch sensing capability built into a soft print in one complete printing process, and a simple LED display making use of a conductive fabric coil for wireless power reception.

In case you’re a visual learner, here is a video of the 3D printer in action.

The end result might look a little rough and may not seem very impressive, but in reality it is. Up to this point most objects that have been printed using a 3D printer are created of hard plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass. 3D printings with the aforementioned materials are put together using a very similar process as seen in the video. An object is created and uploaded to the printer. The printer then creates the 3D object layer by layer until a finished product is generated. 

While the fabric bunny may not be the prettiest in the world, what is ground breaking is that it is 3D printing in fabric. (No one want’s to cuddle a glass bunny). This expansion beyond standard materials is incredibly promising for the future 3D printing development. 

Strides have been made in the 3D printing world. In January we wrote about a project Local Motors is working which will bring 3D printing to the Auto industry. According to the article, Local Motors is in the process of creating a micro-factory where 3D printed vehicles will be showcased, and printed. If Local Motors could implement a 3D printer that uses fabric to print objects, we could see a 3D printer that prints nearly every piece of the vehicle which would be quite the feat. 

What are your thoughts? Do you think Disney’s 3D printer is a game changer? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.