Researchers hope to revolutionize fashion with 4D printing

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A research team at MIT has been working on developing the programming and technology required to create clothing using 4D printing they hope will someday empower consumers to design, create and manufacture their own fashion trends.

With the explosive growth of recycled fashion, consumers are shunning department stores in favor of thrift shops that offer an assortment of styles that cost less and offer a greater variety of choice. While the mass production of clothing over the past few decades was dictated by assembly-line efficiency, producing generic fashion trends that enveloped entire segments of the population in uniformity, newer manufacturing processes promise to revolutionize how cloths are made and distributed.

Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-RosenbergCombining their knowledge and expertise in biology, architecture and mathematics, MIT researchers Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg founded a design studio called Nervous System that is at “the forefront of a movement that uses software to mimic processes and patterns found in nature.

The MIT research duo also created a web application program called Kinematics that, says Rosenkrantz, is something “anyone can use to design a product that can be made very efficiently, requires no assembly and perfectly fits the body.”

The foldability and shape-shifting potential of the printed product is what distinguishes 3D and 4D printing. Where 3D printed objects are solid and self-contained, 4D printed objects can shape-shift.

Using the Kinematics app, a 3D printer and a focus on emulating patterns found in nature, Rosenkrantz and Louis-Rosenberg create fashion accessories, objects and jewelry that are uniquely and exquisitely detailed. Many of their designs include elements taken from nature like crystal formations, the veins of leaves, and the ribbed patterns found on the surface of sea shells. Rosenkrantz goes on to explain that they’re “interested in creating complex objects that are one of a kind and customisable, and [we want]to use 3D printing to make products that have never been made before.” It’s also about designing clothing and fashion accessories that “are made locally, affordably and ethically as part of your lifestyle. It’s not just about picking something off the shelf.”

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One of their most successful examples of 4D printing technology is the creation of a see-through lace dress that was recently selected to become a permanent part of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s collection. The dress is composed of “2,279 printed panels interconnected by 3,316 hinges.” Although the materials required to make the dress still cost $3,000, in time Rosenkrantz and Louis-Rosenberg envision a significantly less expensive and streamlined production process.

The ability to design and print your own products is something we think about. We want to bring back the feeling that what you have is what you actually want – not just the thing you settled for.Rosenkrantz

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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