4D Printing: Building Smart Fashion of the Future Today

4D Printing: Building Smart Fashion of the Future Today

4D Printing: Building Smart Fashion of the Future Today 

The technology of today is far different than that of 20, 10 — even 5 years ago. Self-driving cars are accelerating worldwide, smart home devices are increasingly commonplace, and economies are on their way towards becoming completely cashless.

And these trends in technological advancement can be found impacting every industry, even fashion. Consider, for example, recent applications of AI in both design and online shopping. Or the 3D-modeled, digitally customizable skirts from Julia Daviy — the first of their kind in 3D-printed, ready-to-wear fashion available to the market.

More astounding yet are emerging shifts in the manufacturing of fashion textiles. If you can visualize a garment, designers are inching their way closer to being able to create it in a matter of hours through the use of 3D printing technology.


The speed of production and availability of materials in 3D printing may not be prime for mass adoption just yet, but solutions are on the horizon as these technologies continue to mature. And as this current technology grows smarter, new evolutions arise.

At Julia Daviy specifically, we’ve made massive shifts over the last three years with regards to 3D-printed textiles. We’ve successfully transitioned from homemade plastic 3D-printed garments pieced together from multiple segments, to a more flexible 3D-printed clothing material created using large-format 3D printers. This material has now been recommended as a must-have for women’s wardrobe by British Vogue.

And now it’s time to move even further forward as we explore 4D printing for fashion — an application poised to change the ways in which we design and wear clothes forever.

What is 4D Printing?

4D printing is a method of manufacturing built around the idea of self-assembly. This isn’t to say that you, as the wearer, would be required to assemble anything, however. Instead, it implies that “things” would actually be able to make themselves.

Skylar Tibbits, an MIT researcher and expert in the field, discusses the concept in relation to buildings. Through the use of 4D printing technology, architects could design skyscrapers capable of changing shape and repairing themselves post-production. It’s a technology that could completely re-envision city skylines and infrastructure.

The Difference Between 3D and 4D Printing

3D printing is no stranger to the world of product design. The process essentially transforms digital designs into 3D physical objects — building them out layer by layer.

This differs from 4D printing in the sense that a printer will put to use specially designed materials that can change shape. This means sophisticated, 3D printed designs can be taken one step further and made to change their appearance based on programmed triggers like water, light, heat, or other simple energy output.


4D Printing Applications in Fashion

When it comes to fashion, Julia Daviy is one of the only designers to begin implementing 3D printing techniques in creating everything from shirts to dresses. Not only are these methods functional, but they’re also sustainable — committed to environmental friendliness through the popularized zero-waste wearables.

With 4D printing, fashion designers and studios are bringing new visions to life. Nervous System out of Massachusetts, for example, has created jewelry and garments with articulated joints. This allows pieces to automatically change shape once removed from the printer and placed on the model — resulting in pieces that better fit to the form of any body shape.

In theory, 4D printing is a method of manufacturing that could be used in designing fashion that does far more than change shape. Imagine a button-down, simple in design and function to the naked eye. With 4D printing, designers could program these items to change color or take on an entirely new pattern.

Alternatively, this same approach could be used to alter the length of a dress or the neckline of a top. Style needs aside, 4D-printed clothing can also be self-programmable enough to protect against humans changing their shape and other characteristics (e.g. density) under extreme conditions. All of this means consumers could have more control than ever before over the design and fit of “smart clothing” tailored to their exact liking and/or environment without the cost of expensive alterations.

4D Printing Limitations

4D printing may certainly sound too good to be true, but the potential is real. What has yet to become a reality, similar to 3D printing, is mass adoption within the fashion industry.

As with any newer technology, more time is needed to advance efforts, lower costs, and work out the kinks. Studios are still very much in the experimental phase of bringing 4D printed designs to life as they work with limiting materials and slower production times.

Final Thoughts: 4D Printing and Smart Fashion of the Future

There’s no denying that fast changes are underway. Designs have come a long way since the first 3D printed objects — transforming into pieces that are not only wearable but marketable to the larger consumer market, like the Organic skirt by Julia Daviy. In order to see 4D printing come to life on a larger scale, we need to continue to refine and popularize methods of 3D printing for today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Tell us how you see the industry further evolving in the comment section below.


Text: Julia Daviy


Photo: Danil Kaistro, Vita Zamchevska

Any part of these text and photos is a subject of Copyright. Use it for quotation requires a direct link on JuliaDaviy.com

Is SLA 3D Printing Future of Fashion Industry?

Is SLA 3D Printing  Future of Fashion Industry?

Designers, visionaries, and entrepreneurs are spearheading the movement that will result in some of the most innovative clothing and accessories to show up on runways (and eventually your home) in decades. Though there are still current limitations to how stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing can be used in the fashion industry — it’s safe to say that we are at the brink of a revolution.
SLA 3D printing is different than much of the the 3D printing already being put to use in the fashion industry. There are, in fact, three forms of 3D printing being used: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Selective laser sintering (SLS), and SLA.   I love FDM for its potential to achieve zero-waste, but hate the imperfection of the 3D printing process faced when using it. An alternative that achieves higher quality “impossible” 3D pieces is SLS technology. However, it’s very resource-intensive and dirty.     This leaves SLA 3D printing, which allows a designer to achieve the highest of quality with zero waste, as the clear future system for the fashion industry, especially because it also requires less human supervision. However, because the technology is relatively new, few fashion designers have put in the effort to understand its capabilities.   At the 3D Printing Clothing Lab and Studio I run with my partner, we use large-format industrial SLA 3D printers as part of the first 3D printed clothing manufacturing model in the United States — if not the world. It was in this lab that I created a dress for New York Fashion Week 2018 with a base made from with the ahimsa silk organza fabric and a 3D pattern in flexible resin.
Though I am well-versed in all three forms of 3D printing, I find myself drawn to SLA technology, often experimenting with it. Not only exploring the potential of SLA 3D printing itself but imagining and creating prototypes of an ideal SLA 3D printer for clothing and accessories production.   Though fashion designers are already elbows deep in exploring the potential of SLA 3D printing, it’s not quite economical — yet.

Electric Potential

Today, 3D printed clothes have the same meaning for the fashion industry as Telsa had for the automobile market five years ago.   Basically, we are establishing a trend and laying the foundation for a new market. But it’s exactly the same as how electric cars couldn’t compete in the market with traditional models: because there was no established production of cheap and reliable components. Only now, with Telsa releasing its Model 3 with an affordable base price of $35,000, does the company have a vehicle that is profitable to manufacture.   Unfortunately, there is a great amount of confusion and misinformation out there with regards to where 3D printing really stands with regards to being able to be used in production for the fashion industry.   At this point, the primary thing holding back the fashion industry with regards to fully embracing the potential of SLA 3D printing is decision-makers inertial, old-fashioned way of thinking about the industry.   For some reason, many fail to recognize that the technology has gotten to the point that it’s scalable. It doesn’t have to be used solely for creating single pieces of art. One case in point is Adidas teaming up with Silicon-valley based Carbon in their Futurecraft 4D series.   For these shoes, running data from athletes are mapped out to establish optimal cushioning and support in the midsole. A design based on this information is then printed using Carbon’s Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) enabled DLS technology in a UV-curable resin and polyurethane mixture. SLA 3D printing is at the heart of the DLS technology that makes these highly responsive shoes possible.   Carbon printed 100,000 midsoles for sneakers last year and plans to achieve a million items in 2019-2020.   In fact both Adidas and Under Armour have promised a future where customers can 3D print their sneakers in-store might not be high fashion, it’s certainly an aggressive step forward in the way of using 3D printers for fashion on a commercial level.   The other artificial hurdle raised when the powers at be try to stifle the progress of the fashion industry with their old ways is the claim that 3D printing is too expensive to compete in the market place.   Sure, it’s not cheap when compared to mass-market bulk items coming out of sweatshops of developing nations. These sort of garments created in the fast-fashion world, which has already killed the American clothing industry in terms of tastes for quality design and innovation, fuel the unethical system of production that relies on the exploitation of women and children in far-off countries. However, if you’re looking at luxury fashion items, 3D printed items hit the mark.   For the same amount you’d pay for a simple Gucci jacket with high-end trimming made the old-fashioned way, you can buy an absolutely unique 3D printed jacket that’s one of the first such garments in the world. This jacket, created in our lab, would also have the high-end trimming, as our seamstresses are some of the best in the US and have experience working for brands such as Chanel and Balenciaga. So, for those willing to spend money on luxury fashion items, SLA 3D printing is able to compete with top brands in terms of price and quality.

Limitations of SLA 3D printing

Though SLA 3D printing is the most effortless form of 3D printing and can be used to create otherwise impossible 3D patterns, there are limitations.   One of those limitations is the low printing volume. However, low volume tends to come with the territory when making high-end, luxury items.   Additional drawbacks include wastewater issues, though the inclusion of water recycling technology into SLA 3D printers seems like a real possibility in the not-too-distant future. There is also the issue of the process being potentially unsafe to just leave going in a home where there are kids.   The real limitation at this point in time is there are no ready-to-use solutions in the market place for designers. However, this will certainly change with time.

Solutions on the Horizon. 

In March, I was invited as a speaker to take part in the BIG IDEAS for UV+EB Conference that was held in Redondo Beach, California. The large part of the conference was devoted to the breakthrough of SLA 3D printing.   Besides talking about the new age of fashion—3D printing and other cutting-edge fashion technology—I presented our vision of the SLA 3D printing machines that the fashion industry needs.   I returned to my studio and lab not only with a lot of positive feedback on my speech but also with some fresh thoughts and materials to test for SLA 3D printed fashion.   These materials have excellent properties, they could be printed into flexible, durable, and “pleasant by touch” fashion items. That experience and those materials make me sure that the future of 3D printed fashion is much real and arriving much sooner than many industry experts think.   Tell us how you see the industry further evolving in the comment section below.   Text: Julia Daviy Photo: Vita Zamchevska   Any part of these text and photos is a subject of Copyright. Use it for quotation requires a direct link on JuliaDaviy.com