World’s first 3D fabric printer to make future clothing custom, seamless and a perfect fit

In the future we could be both better and more uniquely dressed, thanks to the development of a 3D fabric printer; the first of its kind.

Although not yet ready for large-scale production, the Electroloom is an exciting prospect, enabling its users to design and print seamless clothing that perfectly fits their frame.

The printer, which is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter and looks set to comfortably exceed its goal, uses a technique called field-guided fabrication to produce garments.

This takes the form of a CAD-developed 3D mold placed inside the printer, which the printer deposits solid fibres onto, building up the final garment.

The fibres themselves are shipped as a liquid solution, but the printer converts them using an electrospinning process, before guiding them onto the mold using an electric field.

Surprisingly, the team behind Electroloom say the fibres are a custom polyester/cotton blend, although presumably there are some additional elements that enable it to to be shipped in a liquid form.

Images courtesy of Electroloom.

Images courtesy of Electroloom.

At present, the printer doesn’t exactly pose a threat to the mainstream fashion industry. The garments that the Electroloom team have used to demonstrate its capabilities – a shirt, a tank top and a beanie – are all plain and fairly unfinished looking, and the device is targeted at makers rather than fashionistas.

However, this very early days. The 3D fabric printer is currently being offered through Kickstarter as an alpha developer kit, priced at $5,000, and it will be very interesting to see how it is used by developers when they get their hands on it.

On the campaign page the team also highlight that there will be later versions of the printer based in how the first version is received.

“Electroloom is still in its infancy; we’ve only been working on the technology for about a year and a half,” the team said.

“This dev kit launch with our alpha units is so that we can start to open a feedback loop outside of our own team.”

Future additions are likely to include additional fabric colours – makers using the first version will need to dye the fabric themselves once they’ve made their garment – and fabrics, with the Electroloom team already working on experimental silk and acrylic blend alternatives.

Assuming their first version is well received and improved, future versions could have a profound impact on the way we dress.

Standardised clothing sizes leave many people stuck with ill-fitting garments and generic, carbon copy styles. but a 3D clothing printer could enable people to wear clothes that fit perfectly and designed to their own personal tastes.

If a device such as this were to become common, it would transform what we wear for the better, prompting currently impossible fashions to become common, and making stylish, well-fitting clothing within the reach of the masses.

In the face of a collapsing market, Acer goes once more unto the smartwatch breach

Despite the fact that smartwatches are generally seeing their sales plummet, Acer has decided to release a new product into the collapsing market. Taking “an elegant approach to fitness”, the Leap Ware smartwatch seems to be fairly standard fare, using an array of fitness-tracking sensors in combination with an app to keep tabs on all of the various statistics the sensors provide.

“As the pace of modern lifestyles become ever more hectic, people demand technology that can keep them on track and motivated to pursue their goals,” said MH Wang, general manager of Smart Device Products in Acer’s IT Products Business.

“The new Acer Leap Ware is designed to act as a virtual coach to help people go, track, and share, sending them reminders and alerts when they need them the most.”

Acer obviously has to promote its product but the above statement seems somewhat bizarrely unaware of the fact that not only is the company offering pretty much the exact same thing every other smartwatch does, but is are doing so in a market that is dying a fairly nasty death. With big names like Pebble going under, and Fitbit’s stock having been on a steady decline, the persistence in putting out new products is a bold move.

In October 2016, the BBC wrote about a new report by market analysts IDC that showed amartwatch shipments declined by 51.6% year-on-year. The Apple Watch held its place as the market leader, but shipped only a quarter of the units it had sold in the same period (July-September) of 2015. And of the five leading brands, only Garmin showed growth with that growth still being underpinned by low figures.

“It has become evident that, at present, smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani from IDC. “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity.”

Images courtesy of Acer

It was pointed out by experts that the period examined was before new versions were released, but there is still a clear lack in significant consumer appetite. The market has largely survived off the fitness aspects, with other products largely falling by the wayside as the novelty wears off. And Acer itself hasn’t exactly been the premium forerunner.

The Leap Ware watch certainly seems a perfectly fine entry into the marketplace. It’s got “diverse fitness tracking features thanks to an array of sensors with advanced algorithms” and supposedly has a battery life of three to five days so you don’t miss out on logging those all-important stats. My watch only tells the time and date. It also has a battery life of ten years.

There is a reasonable chance that initial sales for the Leap Ware may be strong, being all shiny and new as it is. There’s also a very good chance they will quickly plummet as Acer discovers what consumers are desperately trying to tell them: people don’t want smartwatches anymore.

For more information and discussion of the collapse of wearable technology, check out the latest issue of Factor magazine.

Premature lambs kept alive in artificial wombs

Extremely premature lambs have been kept alive in a artificial womb. The fluid-filled plastic bag reproduces the environment of the womb and replaces the function of the placenta. The scientists responsible believe the device could be used for premature babies within the next three years.

Source: New Scientist

British engineer is using recycled plastic to build stronger roads

British engineer Toby McCartney has devised an innovative process that replaces much of the crude oil-based asphalt in pavement with pellets of plastic, made from recyclable bottles. The result is a street that’s 60% stronger than traditional roads, ten times longer-lasting as well as the obvious environmental benefits.

Source: Curbed

Elon Musk’s giant tunnel boring machine arrives at SpaceX

In February, Musk was looking at purchasing a used Herrenknecht boring machine: about 26 feet in diameter, about 400 feet long, and weighing about 1,200 tons. It’s not clear if this is the same machine, but one just arrived at SpaceX’s headquarters and can now be found in the parking lot.

Source: Electrek

Surgeon claims brain transplants are just three years away

A pioneering Italian surgeon has claimed people who have had their brains cryogenically frozen could be 'woken up' within three years. The claim is being made by professor Sergio Canavero who also claims he can carry out the first human head transplant within 10 months before he begins trials on brain transplants.

Source: The Telegraph

Facebook 'observed propaganda efforts' by governments

Facebook has revealed in a new report that it observed attempts to spread propaganda on its site, apparently orchestrated by governments or organised parties. The firm has seen "false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion", it said.

Source: BBC

Ex-head of Google China predicts AI will take half of all jobs in a decade

The ex-head of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, has said that AI will be bigger than all previous tech innovations put together. "These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50% of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty," said Lee.

Source: CNBC