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 player 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.
This paper considers the design, construction, and example use of a new type of 3D printer which fabricates three-dimensional objects from soft fibers (wool and wool blend yarn). This printer allows the substantial advantages of additive manufacturing techniques (including rapid turn-around prototyping of physical objects and support for high levels of customization and configuration) to be employed with a new class of material.
Cornell researchers in Hod Lipson’s Creative Machines Lab have 3-D printed a working loudspeaker, seamlessly integrating the plastic, conductive and magnetic parts, and ready for use almost as soon as it comes out of the printer.
It’s an achievement that 3-D printing evangelists feel will soon be the norm; rather than assembling consumer products from parts and components, complete functioning products could be fabricated at once, on demand.