3D Printing in Textile: How to Print, Uses, Advantages and Disadvantages

What id 3D Printing?
3D printing is the process of creating three-dimensional objects through joining or solidifying material under computerized control. 3D printing (3DP), also known as additive manufacturing. In this process, a computer-aided design (CAD) is converted into a 3D object by printing the material layer by layer and join­ing them in the form of a cohesive object. This technology is being extensively used both in prototyping and additive manufacturing. 3DP is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, which is cutting out/hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with, for instance, a milling machine. 3D printing enables to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

3d printing in textile
Fig: 3D printing in textile

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is a booming industry that has made rapid prototyping and small-scale manufacturing easier, more accessible and affordable, and is used in aerospace, architecture, automotive, medical and dental fabrication, defense, and commercial and consumer product manufacturing industries. Advantages of using 3D printers include less time from design to manufacture, material waste and energy consumption.

3D printing is the opposite of traditional manu­facturing technology. 3DP as an innovative technology implemented in different areas of production has gained an increased interest in the fashion industry. Here, the object is created by placing successive layers of mate­rial with a given thickness, generated by the slicing software. The history of 3DP begins in 1981 with Dr. Hideo Kodama’s patent application for a rapid prototyping device. In this system, a vat of photopolymer material is exposed to a UV light that hardens the part and builds up the model in layers.

3D printing shows advantages in producing complex geometries which can be difficult to create with common industrial production or to produce objects in aero­nautics or other situations where no other production machines are available.

The fashion industry has adapted these technologies to revolutionize their brands. Applications in the textile industry are presented in fashion shows by well-known fashion designers. In the academic arena, case studies of 3D printed fabrics are developed and presented by different authors. A lot of work is being done to develop materials similar to textile fabric, due to the unique characteristic of textiles as com­fort, flexibility, and so on.

3D printed garments are seen as a complimentary to fashion products. In the survey conducted to evaluate consumer behavior for 3D printed garments, the majority of respondents believe that 3DP will be beneficial for garment production. This can be related with the wastage of garments and the possibility to produce personalized gar­ments even at home.

How to 3D Print?
Now 3D printing is changing the entire value chain in the apparel industry from design and prototyping to the finished product and its delivery. Up to now, the designer has designed a product with two-dimensional materials and then created one or more cost-intensive prototypes and sample collections before the product could go into mass production. These cost drivers can now be replaced by a virtual 3D simulation. The software is now mature enough to test cuts on virtual size avatars as well as colors and patterns. The folds and movement of the avatars are also realistically simulated.

3D printing begins with digital design of an object. A user typically creates the design of an object with the help of computer-aided design (CAD) software or a 3D scanner. The object is designed in layers or slices, based on the notion that every 3D object can be viewed as a stack of two-dimensional (2D) slices. These digital slices are then sent to a 3D printer, which recreates the object one slice at a time. As a result, 3D printing creates less material wastage. The 3D printer uses a raw material such as powdered plastic nylon, powdered ceramic, plastic filament or even titanium to reconstruct the object. 3D printing is used to pro­duce architectural scale models, enabling a faster turnaround of the scale model and increasing the overall speed and complexity of the objects produced.

Uses / Application of 3D Printing:
3D printing is used for visualization, demonstration and mechanical prototyping. It may also be useful for making patterns for molding processes. In addition, 3DP is useful in the field of medicine.

3D printing encompasses many forms of technologies and materials as 3DP is being used in almost all industries one could think of. It’s important to see it as a cluster of diverse industries with myriad different applications.

Some of the notable uses of 3D printing include:

  1. Consumer products (eyewear, footwear, design, furniture, household items, toys, and electronic gadgets)
  2. Fashion and Art (fashion pieces, sculptures, and other artistic creations)
  3. Industrial products (manufacturing tools, prototypes, functional end-use parts)
  4. Customized Products (Personalized items like custom jewelry, phone cases etc.)
  5. Medical products (patient-specific models for surgical planning, prosthetics, and orthopedic implants)
  6. Dental products (dental models, crowns, bridges, and other dental prosthetics with high precision)
  7. Architectural scale models and marquettes
  8. Reconstructing fossils
  9. Replicating ancient artefacts
  10. Reconstructing evidence in forensic pathology
  11. Movie props

Advantages and Disadvantages of 3D Printing:
3D printing technology is quite new and still in the developmental stage. In the present stage, it has several advantages and disadvantages. A few of which are listed below.

Advantages of 3D Printing:

  1. In traditional manufacturing, irrespective of the effectiveness and efficiency of the operations, wastage of raw material is inevitable.
  2. With 3D printing, we are using as much raw material as required to print, which means we are eliminating the need for additional raw material, as we can print the exact size of the panel for each garment.
  3. Beyond zero wastage, 3D printing eliminates many labor-intensive pro­cesses from the complete garment manufacturing cycle, reducing the labor costs.
  4. Apart from cost savings, another big advantage that 3DP offers is improved quality, as the occasional human error is eliminated from the manufacturing process.

Disadvantages of 3D Printing:

  1. We still have a long way to go when it comes to 3D printed in textile. Currently, 3D printed textiles and garments fail to offer comfort and fexibility that a garment is expected to provide. They do not absorb moisture as the layers of the raw material fuse with each other, leaving no air gaps.
  2. Apart from the material problems in 3DP, more research is needed to understand how design elements can impart drapeability and breathabil­ity into the 3D printed garments, making them wearable.
  3. Also, 3D printed textiles cannot be sewn into garments like traditional manufacturing. Alternatives, like melting of edges and fusing them to other panels, are being explored, but we are still in the starting phases.
  4. Lastly, the cost of material for 3D printing of textiles and garments is high. Producing samples and limited pieces might be possible, but for mass pro­duction, we still need to identify materials that can make the process com­mercially viable.

3D printing technology is a simple and direct method which is used to process a 3D part by rapid manufacturing of high-resolution, complex and reproducible constructs that have attracted immense attention from numerous sectors, including: architecture, engineering, healthcare and many more. 3D printing can be quicker and less expensive than conventional machining of prototype parts or production of cast or molded parts by conventional hard or soft tooling techniques. 3D printing can reduce waste and energy consumption in manufacturing processes by using sustainable materials.


  1. Principles of Textile Printing by Asim Kumar Roy Choudhury
  2. Advances in Bio-based Fiber, 1st Edition By Sanjay Mavinkere Rangappa, Madhu Puttegowda, Jyotishkumar Parameswaranpillai, Suchart Siengchin and Sergey Gorbatyuk
  3. The Chemistry of Printing Inks and Their Electronics and Medical Applications By Johannes Karl Fink
  4. Tanvir Mahady Dip, Ayesha Siddika Emu, Md Nafiul Hassan Nafiz, Puja Kundu, Hasnatur Rahman Rakhi, Abdullah Sayam, Md Akhtarujjman, Mohammad Shoaib, Md Shakil Ahmed, Swimi Tabassum Ushno, Abdullah Ibn Asheque, Enamul Hasnat, Mohammad Abbas Uddin & Abu Sadat Muhammad Sayem (2020) 3D printing technology for textiles and fashion, Textile Progress, 52:4, 167-260, DOI: 10.1080/00405167.2021.1978223

You may also like: List of Value Addition Processes in the Textile Industry

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top