We can soon be wearing 3D clothes and footwear, printed within 24 hours. In collaboration with the Thai textile and garment manufacturer Yeh Group, researchers at the Loughborough University embark on working at personalised 3D printed clothes that could transform the future of the fashion industry.

Their project is called 3D Fashion, which would run for 18 months. The researchers will also collaborate with a major fashion house to design the 3D printed garments using raw materials like polymer.

“This landmark technology allows us as designers to innovate faster and create personalised, ready-to-wear fashion in a digital world with no geometrical constraints and almost zero waste material,” adds Guy Bingham, a senior lecturer in Product and Industrial Design. “We envisage that with further development of the technology, we could 3D print a garment within 24 hours.”

According to Bingham, the technology also has other implications beyond the fashion industry. It can also reduce the 1.8 million-tonne of cloth manufacturing waste, conserve the 6.3-billion cubic metre of water used, as well as decrease carbon dioxide emission from cloth production, reduce labour costs, and encourage localised manufacturing and production.

“Printing clothes using Additive Manufacturing (AM) will revolutionise the fashion industry worldwide by opening up digital manufacturing to the masses via online retail, bringing a much-needed update to 19th-century techniques and processes,” says Bingham. “This modern approach to clothing production helps meet the growing demand for personalised apparel and footwear which through 3D printing can be produced in a sustainable and ethical way.”

Bingham points out that there is no limit with 3D and bringing to life what is previously thought to be impossible is the ultimate goal of the technology. Yeh Group Managing Director David Yeah asserts that manufacturing clothes through this process may seem easier and faster but this would not compromise the quality of clothes and footwear.