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Scientist Develops New Tulle-like Textile Using Common 3D Printing Defect


Scientist from the MIT Media Lab Introduces DefeXtiles, a tulle-like textile developed by controlling a common 3D printing defect — the under-extrusion of polymer filament.

Flexible and Thin Material for Futuristic Use
Scientist, Jack Forman has used a standard, inexpensive 3D printer to produce sheets and complex 3D geometries with a woven-like structure based on the “glob-stretch” pattern produced by under-extrusion. Forman has printed these flexible and thin sheets into an interactive lampshade, full-sized skirts, a roll of fabric long enough to stretch across a baseball diamond, and intricately patterned lace, among other items.

The material may prove immediately useful for prototyping and customizing in fashion design but future applications also could include 3D-printed surgical mesh with tunable mechanical properties, among other items.

Joining Forman, MIT Media Lab graduate student and Professor Hiroshi Ishii, Tangible Media research group on the project are Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate student Mustafa Doga Dogan, and Hamilton Forsythe, an MIT Department of Architecture undergraduate researcher.

Glob-Stretch Method to Turn Filaments to Fabric
When a 3D printer under-extrudes material, it produces periodic gaps in the deposited material. Using an inexpensive fused deposition modeling 3D printer, Forman developed an under-extruding process called “glob-stretch,” where globs of thermoplastic polymer are connected by fine strands. The process produces a flexible, stretchy textile with an apparent warp and weft like a woven fabric, like a mesh jersey fabric.

“Not only are these textiles thinner and faster to print than other approaches, but the complexity of demonstrated forms is also improved. With this approach we can print three-dimensional shell forms with a normal 3D printer and no special slicer software,” says Forman. “This is exciting because there’s a lot of opportunities with 3D printing fabric, but it’s really hard for it to be easily disseminated, since a lot of it uses expensive machinery and special software or special commands that are generally specific to a printer.”

Conductive Filaments for Interactive Lamp
The new textile can be sewn, de-pleated, and heat-bonded like an iron-on patch. Forman and his colleagues have printed the textiles using many common 3D printing materials, including a conductive filament that they used to produce a lamp that can be lit and dimmed by touching pleats in the lampshade. The researchers suggest that other base materials or additives could produce textiles with magnetic or optical properties, or textiles that are more biodegradable by using algae, coffee grounds, or wood.

One of the more unusual aspects of the project has been what to call the material. Forman and his colleagues use the term “quasi-textile” because DefeXtiles doesn’t have all the same physical qualities of a usual textile, such as a bias in both directions and degree of softness. But some skeptics have been converted when they feel the material, Forman says.



» Publication Date: 05/11/2020

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This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [613680].

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