3-D printing in the fashion and retail space involves enabling consumers to purchase and download a design online and print it off at home. At the moment, designers mostly use the technology for prototyping, but printing real product gets closer to reality every day.
Consider Duann Scott, the designer evangelist at New York City-based Shapeways, a 3-D printing marketplace and community, who discussed how his company enables users to upload 3-D designs and then sell them online. Customers can choose from a plastic, ceramic or metal material, and they also have the ability to customize or personalize the products. Shapeways then prints the object in one of its factories in Long Island City, N.Y., or Eindhoven, Netherlands, and mails it to the customer. Shapeways tells designers how much it will cost to make their products, and then they can mark them up as much as they want. Merchandise available on Shapeways’ site includes bags, belts, wallets, gadgets, games, jewelry, among other items.
Shapeways isn’t the only 3-D printer, but it’s the largest and most well-known. According to an April 23 All Things Digital article, more than 10,000 people have sold over 1 million designs to more than 150,000 customers using Shapeways.
"3-D printing is perfect for fast iterations and custom forms," Scott said. "You can do a weave and a stitch and a mesh at the same time. In a sense you can bury the textile and as a result change the whole way the structure of the garment will work and how it will fit the body. You can make an item exactly fit one person and there's no additional cost for that customization. There's so much potential that hasn't been tapped into yet."