The 3D Fashion project aims to produce garments and footwear that are coloured and finished in a one-step manufacturing process

The 3D Fashion project aims to produce garments and footwear that are coloured and finished in a one-step manufacturing process

Global textile and garment manufacturer Yeh Group is joining forces with a British university on a project to develop "truly wearable" 3D printed fashion and footwear.

The landmark project, which would see items manufactured within 24 hours, "could revolutionise how clothes and footwear are made," according to the researchers at Loughborough University, where the work will be carried out.

The 18-month project, known as 3D Fashion, is being led by Dr Guy Bingham, senior lecturer in product and industrial design, with the aim of producing full size, 3D wearable garments and footwear that are coloured and finished in an innovative one-step manufacturing process – with design input from a major fashion house.

The Yeh Group, an innovative vertical sports, outdoor and intimates supplier headquartered in Thailand and with operations in South East Asia, will help commercialise the technology. The group makes sports, outdoor and intimate apparel fabrics and garments, and is perhaps best-known for its DryDye branded performance fabric produced using a waterless dyeing process for customers such as Adidas.

"3D Fashion is going to bring a new revolutionary way of producing apparel and footwear. People say it is not possible, but we are going to be the first to jump on it," explains David Yeh, managing director, Tong Siang (Yeh Group). He adds: [It] "supports the Yeh Group vision of direct polymer to garment manufacture."

3D printing of textiles – also known as additive manufacturing (AM) – is not new, but current processes are multi-stage and require garment finishing. Another issue is that 3D 'prints' tend to be hard, sculptural structures – and one of the biggest challenges has been making garments with drape, and that are comfortable and wearable.

However, Loughborough University says its innovative technology will produce finished, ready-to-wear net-shaped garments directly from raw material, such as polymer, in a single manufacturing operation.

The technology also has tremendous potential to not only reduce waste, labour costs and CO2 emissions, but also to modernise clothing production by encouraging localised manufacturing and production.

"With 3D printing there is no limit to what you can build and it is this design freedom which makes the technology so exciting by bringing to life what was previously considered to be impossible," explains Dr Bingham.

"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. We envisage that with further development of the technology, we could 3D print a garment within 24 hours.

"Printing clothes using 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. 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."

Currently, garment manufacture generates 1.8m tonnes of waste material – equivalent to 70kg or 100 pairs of jeans per UK household, with 6.3bn cubic metres of water used in the process – equivalent to 200,000 litres per year per household or 1,000 filled bathtubs, according to WRAP, the UK's Waste and Resources Action Programme.

"The Yeh Group is always striving to cut out unnecessary waste and resource use, and support the industries goals of faster to market, creating a manufacturing technology that brands and retailers can install closer to their customers. This is all with no compromise to performance," David Yeh adds.

As was recently reported on just-style, another UK project at the University of Hertfordshire is claiming a "huge breakthrough" for garment technology and 3D printing by producing materials that are flexible and more closely mimic traditional fabrics.

3D printed fashion project mimics traditional fabrics