Björk showcases the comfy future of 3D printed fashion

3D printed clothing that is both form-fitting and comfortable to wear is heading for the mainstream thanks to technology showcased today by the artist Björk.

The 3D-printable material, Nano Enhanced Elastomeric Technology (NEET), has been developed by 3D printing giant Stratasys and will be available commercially later this year.

Today it is been used in a mask developed with the company’s multi-material 3D printing technology, which is designed to perfectly mimic Björk’s musculoskeletal structure using 3D scans of her face. The mask is called Rottlace, a variant on the Icelandic word for skinless.

“Inspired by their biological counterpart and conceived as ‘muscle textiles’, the mask is a bundled, multi-material structure, providing formal and structural integrity, as well as movement to the face and neck,” said mask designer Professor Neri Oxman, from MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group.

Image courtesy of Matt Carasella. Featured image courtesy of Santiago Felipe

The Pangolin 3D printed dress, designed by threeASFOUR. Image courtesy of Matt Carasella. Featured image courtesy of Santiago Felipe

Despite being made of several materials, including NEET, which allows it to stretch, the mask was printed in one sitting, meaning the technology could be used for custom manufacturing on a significant scale.

For Oxman, however, it could also allow high-end clothing and textiles designers to stretch the limits of their creativity.

“Multi-material 3D printing enables the production of elaborate combinations of graded properties, distributed over geometrically complex structures within a single object,” she said. “With Rottlace, we designed the mask as a synthetic ‘whole without parts’.”

Björk performed in the mask at an event streamed in VR at the Tokyo Miraikan Museum, as part of a virtual reality project dubbed BJÖRK DIGITAL, which finishes on 18th July.

She also wore a 3D printed dress that uses the material on 4th June, during a performance in Sydney as part of the project. Named Pangolin, the dress was designed by avant-garde fashion collective threeASFOUR, which has produced several 3D printed garments with Stratasys using the NEET material, and was originally launched earlier this year at New York Fashion week.

Featuring intricate interlocking panels, the garments looks carefully and expensively tailored, but with a fit and feel that makes it comfortable to wear.

If the technology becomes widely available, it could be revolutionary for fashion.

Despite its potential, 3D printed clothing has so far been restricted jewellery and accessories, with the few 3D printed garments available sacrificing looks for functionality.

However Stratasys’ technology could change that, and the company is planning plenty more showcases to further adoption.

“The Rottlace mask was designed for Björk while we are also working with Neri on a larger mask collection for Stratasys, which will debut later this year under the title ‘The New Ancient’,” says Naomi Kaempfer, Stratasys creative director of art, fashion and design.

“It’s an honor to see visionaries such as Björk embrace 3D printing for the expression of her art. This technology not only provides the freedom to produce perfect fitting costumes for the film and music industries, but also the inimitable capacity to materialize a unique fantasy to such a precise level of detail and 3D expression.”

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