3D Printing – New Alternatives in Fashion and Beyond


The photo above is the Nervous System Dress (courtesy of Shapeways)
 It is the first dress to be 3D printed in one piece and come out of the printer in a wearable state, you can find  a video here of the process.

I have some very exciting news! One of my first articles was published in this wonderful new magazine LA Fashionista Compassionista. The article which is about new innovations in technology is a bit of a change from the Healthy Lifestyle and food related posts I’ve been focusing on. Since this blog is about all things good for animals, people and the planet you may see me cover a range of topics.

The magazine, which is absolutely beautiful and full of really great info and articles on compassionate fashion and beauty can be found in its entirety here: LA Fashionista Compassionista

3D printing is a fairly new technology with endless potential. 3D printing is interesting for those in the animal rights and vegan community because the application of materials printed could eliminate exploitation and suffering for millions of animals used for clothing, food products and in animal testing. It’s something I am incredibly interested in have decided to dedicate myself to; innovative technologies that not only help animals but also limit our environmental impact and can be more socially responsible.


The photo above  is the Dita Von Teese Dress (courtesy of Shapeways). This dress was printed in multiple parts and was designed to Dita’s exact measurement.

At this point 3D printing for the fashion industry is not incredibly functional, many of the products are mostly runway ready, created for their beauty and artistic appeal. As mentioned previously this technology is very much in its infancy but the possibilities are really endless as far as what can be made with these machines. Just a few of these products include; alternatives to fur, leather, and feathers. As the technology develops, it is hoped that products that are more compassionate can be produced on a larger scale. The products that can be made include but are not limited to; jewelry, other accessories, clothing, shoes, hats and bags.



Photos above are courtesy of Shapeways

Additionally, 3D printing technology can potentially, serve as a more accurate testing method for products as they can produce tissues that more closely mimic human bodies. Therefore, providing better results and making animal testing obsolete. The potential to improve human lives and the environment is also nearly limitless.

Read here about the history of 3D printing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing

To get a better understanding of 3D printing I sat down to talk with my friend Brian with Polygonz 3D, in Denver. Brian is a tech whiz that owns a 3D printer and has been helping clients with their 3D printing needs in several capacities. He helps us understand a bit more about 3D printing and its potential:

Q: Where do the raw materials come from?

A: The list of types of filaments (the spools of material that 3D printers use) is large and growing daily. They include PLA (a recyclable polymer made from corn), ABS plastic (which has a low toxicity, and is recycled and recyclable), and other filaments that are a mix of these and target materials such as ceramics and metals, where the polymers are used as a delivery method, and some amount of post-processing of the object is used to achieve a higher concentration of the target material. An example of this would be the ceramics blended filaments, which after printing the object, require insertion into a small kiln, in which the polymer is cooked away and only the ceramic remains, with some reduction in size to the original object.


Photo courtesy of Polygonz 3D

Q: Can you give us a brief description of the process from beginning to end?

A: It all starts in the mind of the 3D designer and whoever the designer is collaborating with (fashion designer, product designer, etc.) – visualization and drawing skills are helpful at this stage. Next, the 3D designer takes the resulting sketches, specifications, and functionality requirements, and begins to model the prototype in a 3D modeling package, such as AutoCad Inventor, Cinema 4D, etc. Once an acceptable looking version of the object is approved by the group working on the project, one or several 3D prints of the object are created to test the functionality, durability, or other aspects of the physical object. At this stage a discussion takes place with regards to production of the finished product. Depending on the nature of the project (commercial product, unique art piece) the next step might be to create a secondary design to assist the production process. For example, if the desired final product is to be massed produced, there are several small unit run (100,000 or less) injection molding machines that are designed to accept dies made out of the ABS plastic used by 3D printing in order to produce a low-cost, 3D printed set of designs that can be changed and reproduced to make the product better with a very low time and cost overhead.


Pendant_ChainPhotos courtesy of Polygonz 3D

Q: In your opinion how can 3D printing lead to cruelty free and more compassionate products?

A: The structures that can be created with 3D printing can be incredibly intricate, and can mimic those found in nature. For this reason is possible to create products that have the physical characteristics of fabrics, animal skins, and other natural resources, without harvesting these finite resources thereby reducing the environmental impact of producing these products. Additionally, because 3D printing enables local manufacturing, it reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for sweatshops, overseas shipping, and trucking products across land, which greatly reduces the carbon footprint of the product, as well as the overall cost of production.

Q: What are examples of products in the fashion and beauty industry are currently being made?

A: The US Dept. of Defense and the Wake Forest Institute are spending $24 million to develop miniature organ structures to eliminate the need for cell and animal testing. More info about mini organs can be found here: http://www.livescience.com/39660-3d-printed-body-on-a-chip.html. Also, replacement organs and tissues formally made of animals, such as sheep or pig can now be made of 3D printed scaffold structures that are then painted with the patient’s stem cells to create a less easily rejected body part. In fashion, companies such as Modern Meadow are producing 3D printed leather that can be as thick as the sole of a shoe or as thin as silk.

Q: What are some things you would like readers to know about the technology?

A: The main thing that makes 3D printing so powerful and transformative to so many industries is that the process allows designers to not only reproduce existing objects, but create objects that cannot be produced in any other way due to the complexity of shapes possible with this technology.

Q: What are some of the drawbacks?

A: The main drawback right now is that the process is slow. New machines and techniques are being developed all the time to address this, but until it is overcome, the widespread usefulness of the technology is being held back a bit.

Q: How can people like readers of La Fashionista Compassionista support and encourage 3D printing?

A: Research and support (by buying their products) the growing list of companies that make it their mission to use this technology in an environmentally conscious and compassionate way. Check resources like rebellionlab.com or fashion designers like Iris Van Herpen (irisvanherpen.com) who are using their notoriety to build awareness of this technology and its possibilities.


You can find videos on the Shapeways Youtube page that show the process of printing metal, like this one. Some of the jewerly pictured here is available on their website all of these are available to purchase.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting 3D printing as it offers a much more compassionate choice, plus we may see many great new products that are attractive to all Fashionistas! Stay tuned for fun new developments in this industry!

And, be sure to sign up for LA Fasshionista Compassionista for all the lastest news in Compassionate Fashion! It’s Free! 🙂


4 thoughts on “3D Printing – New Alternatives in Fashion and Beyond

    • Hi Mimi, thank you! My blog is about veganism and animal rights and protecting the environment, I’m hoping I can help encourage people to eliminate animal suffering while still remaining fashion conscious. Look forward to “seeing” you in the future! 🙂

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