Last month, I was in London to attend fashion forward events. I had the chance to listen to one of Electroloom founders at the 3D print show Computational Fashion conference. Over a year ago, Aaron Rowley and his friends started thinking about the idea of 3D printed clothing and the wide possibilities it would allow. Wondering if we would one day download our clothes as we do our files, begin to share clothes as we do share our favorite pictures, articles on our beloved social medias.
After a year and a half of development, they released a successful Kickstarter campaign, funded over 160%
Inspired by 3D printers and the maker movement, the San Francisco-based team set out to build a technology enabling people to design and manufacture clothing from scratch.
Releasing a first Electroloom Developer Kit, rather than launching an end-user product, the team decided to launch less than 30 machines to see how early adopters would experiment with their technology. After having successfully found first users willing to test the machine, Aaron, Marcus Foley and Joseph White are now seeking to find the technology’s limits and explore the wild possibilities it can allow. To do so, they are building a community around this textile manufacture innovation, and explore the enormous challenges ahead.
How does magic work?
Using an electrospinning process to convert liquid solutions into solid fibers, the machine deposits the polyester and cotton blend solution over a customizable mould. The nano-fibers then bind together, creating the fabric. This process is called Field Guided Fabrication, or FGF. Essentially, an internal electric field inside of the machine’s chamber guides fibers onto a 3D shape, where they bond together. Most people say it looks like magic. We definitely agree.
Once the process ends, fabrics can be removed. And, magically, it behaves exactly like traditionally woven material: draping, flexing and folding as your basic sheets would. The team has so far demonstrated skirts, shift dresses, beannies and a men’s tank top.
What it means for the future of Fabrics manufacturing
Behind the scenes, the technology reduces the traditional textile manufacturing process into a single step. Instead of sending raw material through factories where it undergoes numerous processing steps to create a traditional textile, the machine enables directly converted raw material to finished good.
Now imagine a future where you could just download an amazing garment you just found on the Internet, print it and wear it, right before you’re to work! That would be awesome!
“A lot of the potential sustainability benefits that may come from this technology come from the elimination of a lot of intermediate steps,” says Aaron Rowley, co-founder of Electroloom. “We take raw materials and then convert them into a non-woven fabric in a single step.”
What’s even more interesting with this innovation is its sustainability. The process eliminates waste. When you think that in a typical garment factory, about 15% of fabric ends up as cutting waste. While currently, the solution used to produce the fabrics are mixed fibers, which are known to be difficult to recycle.
Post written by Noémie Balmat, Founding editor-in-chief
Interested in the future of fashion, the digital revolutions and advertising, Noémie has a valuable three-year experience in international advertising agencies and works with young innovative designers as a fashion tech freelance consultant. Currently working for Publicis Conseil in Paris, she launched Clausette Magazine in November 2014 to gather all cool projects linking fashion & innovation in one place. Sensitive to the technological and scientific evolutions, she takes part in several Fashion Tech weeks and events as a speaker (Paris, Tokyo, Roubaix…).