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The devil wears … 3-D printed plastic?

Sarina Tracy, sarina.tracy@photonics.com

Bill Cunningham, longtime fashion photographer for The New York Times, defines fashion as “the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” And that mighty armor can now be made out of 3-D printed plastic, as seen on a few catwalks in London, Paris and New York.

Using laser sintering and additive manufacturing, artist and sculptor Joshua Harker has created an intricate wearable sculpture called “Quixotic Divinity” using a variety of interwoven and suspended 3-D printed plastic components.


Photo courtesy of 3D Printshow.


Sintered on an EOSINT P 760 additive manufacturing system by Electro Optical Systems (EOS) of Germany, the striking all-plastic headdress took almost 200 hours to design, but only 26 hours to print. The piece was built on EOS’ largest-format SLS printer in polyamide, filling its build envelope to full dimensional capacity.

“I have used EOS’ technology considerably in my pieces because I have to,” Harker said. “It’s one of the very few that allows me to produce my creations without problematic issues of cleanup, rigid support and other technicalities after the build is finished. It helps me do what I do without being burdened by manufacturing considerations.”

Unveiled at the 3D Printshow’s Fashion Experience in London’s Islington borough as well as at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, the headdress recently made its American debut at the 3D Printshow in New York. The headgear pays homage to traditional ceremonial headdresses of Native American and African tribes, Harker said.

“3-D printing is a process that allows you to create things that can’t be done any other way. Whether it’s fashion or art or anything, really, when you’re imagining things and the constraints of what you can make are gone, it changes a lot of things,” he said. “Designers are really going to have a lot of powerful new avenues to explore with this technology.”

And it’s only beginning. You might even be able to spot a practical 3-D printed piece on someone’s neck or earlobe as you walk down the sidewalk.

“I think there is no doubt we’ll be seeing 3-D printed fashion on the street. It’s already starting with more affordable items like jewelry and accessories,” he said.

In an industry where trends come and go, Harker believes that this one, uniting fashion and science, is here to stay for the masses. “As costs come down and processes become more efficient, [3-D printing] will be increasingly incorporated into textiles, shoes and large pieces.”


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