From customized insoles to in-ear hearing aids, 3D printing technology has made numerous contributions in creating 3D printed wearables for consumers. The fashion industry has also witnessed the use of this technology for the creation of innovative and eye-catching designs.

Leading fashion designers like Iris van Herpen are combining technology with fashion and producing futuristic designs that seem almost surreal. However, just like any other field of technology, 3D printed wearables also come with a set of challenges that prevent them from being fully incorporated especially in the fashion industry.

3D printed wearables
Source: Klaudia Filipiak

Challenges in 3D printing wearables

Let’s first take a look at the challenges that could prevent 3D printed wearables from being implemented on a large scale in the fashion and consumer goods industry.

Limitations in ease of use

Using 3D printers to print anything requires the ability to design 3D models. To say that anyone can print whatever clothes or wearable items they want would be a bit far-fetched due to this. The good news is that you can find fashion 3D models of wearable items available for download. From belt buckles and pendants to eyewear, consumers can simply download and print these wearables as they wish. The main issue is that the design options might be limited. So if you really do wish to print something that you have visualized, the limited ease of use of this technology may prove to be a challenge.

3D printed wearables
Source: New World Notes

Cost factor

Another big challenge in 3D printing wearables is the fact that the cost can be high. The cost factor might not be such a significant issue for smaller items like hearing aids. In the case of fashion, however, the material and technology used to create 3D printed pieces can be expensive. This can make it somewhat difficult to implement in creating consumer end-goods.

Limitations in material

When it comes to 3D printed clothing, there are a number of differences between the material used and conventional fabrics. Not only do they differ in terms of their physical aspect, there are variations in terms of technical properties as well. Materials like TPU may look quite like regular fabrics with flexibility and resistance. Yet it is still a plastic material and you can understand what might happen if you put a plastic material in the washing machine.

3D printed wearables
Source: Intel

What to consider when creating 3D printed wearables

There is a stark difference in the approach used for creating wearable products and that used in creating non-wearable products. So, using 3D printers to create wearable goods means we have to consider those approaches carefully. Let’s take a look at some of the important considerations we should make when creating 3D printed wearables.

How does it look?

When manufacturing any consumer product, the goal should be to appeal to different senses at once. So while you focus on functionality, durability, and performance; you should place equal importance on the aesthetics. It won’t hurt to have the product in varying colors and flattering designs. So with 3D printed wearables, consider creating your product with a stunning finish in attractive colors.

3D printed wearables
Source: University of Delaware

How durable is it?

As mentioned earlier, the material used in creating 3D printed wearables plays a huge role in the quality of the product itself. This means you will need to carefully select a material that isn’t only durable but also gives the right finish to the product. With products that will be in constant contact with the wearer’s skin, this is especially crucial. You’ll have to think about the comfort factor and also consider how this constant exposure to skin can have an impact on the product’s finish.

While natural wear and tear are inevitable, choosing the right finish will prevent these issues to an extent. For this, you will need materials that are durable and perspiration-proof as well as resistant to UV light and stain.

What is its use?

When creating something out of 3D printing, it’s easy to get carried away with all the possibilities and forget all about the daily realities of the product. You may be implementing innovative ideas in creating the product, but don’t forget about the functionality of the product. First, take a look at it as a product and then as a case for 3D printing. So while you’re focused on revolutionizing 3D printing, think about how you can use the technology for functional integration in your product and how to improve its performance.

3D printed shoes
Source: Silvia Fado

Future of wearable goods

3D printing has come a long way in making wearable consumer goods more personalized according to the needs of each individual. There’s still a long way to go with several challenges and considerations limiting the full integration of the technology in producing wearable consumer goods. At the same time, new developments are being made constantly and we should expect to see all this changing soon.

The author is a Digital Marketing Consultant at CG Trader, a 3D Model Marketplace, Founder of Digital Marketing Blog Attrock and a Technology lover. He has been featured on TechCrunch, Search Engine Land and many popular Tech and Marketing blogs. He is a traveler and love to explore new ways to enjoy the life at fullest. Follow Gaurav Sharma on Twitter and Google+.


Digital Marketing Consultant at CG Trader. Follow him on Twitter: @Gaurav_Sharma11


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