Finding creative solutions where 3D printing adds desirability and value to waste materials.
Common themes: Personal wellbeing during Lockdown, reclaimed/reused/recycled. Zero waste.
Lockdown project: 3D Printing onto Fabric
“I have wanted to explore 3D printing on fabric for a few years, fascinated by the potential. This technique is already used by cosplay fans, experimental art projects and for fashion. I want in on this, to push my own style and aesthetic and explore this process as a designer maker.”This post, ‘Sustainable Me! ’, complements Ann Marie Shillito’s work currently on display in Closing the Loop’s ‘MATTER: Earth, Material + Making’ exhibition at the Barn in Banchory in Scotland, and on until 12th November 2022.
The exhibition is the work of twelve Applied Arts Scotland members, exploring environmental wellbeing through making: drawing on craft practices that value & respect natural resources, waste materials, biodiversity & production systems.
Ann Marie’s intention with this series of posts is to provide information on the purpose and methods behind work she made for the exhibition: the two projects displayed, three further projects that were not included, and finished project pieces now on sale in the Barn’s store, Fold.
This post covers 3D printing on fabric and other stuff, and this image shows some of her exploratory test pieces pinned on the wall in the MATTER exhibition, “like moths”, Allison said, “attracted to the light” – a lampshade of joined up waste plastic spice pots.
Why I want to 3D print onto fabric.
Ann Marie already uses 3D digital technologies to design and produce her 3D printed jewellery. For 3D modelling she uses Anarkik3DDesign that her company, Anarkik3D, develops because it is specifically developed for designer makers. She just loves using it and it is perfect for this project . Also Anarkik3D have an Ultimaker2 desktop 3D printer used in their 3D digital modelling workshops to demonstrate the principles of 3D printing. It is also fine for this project and more details later in this post.
Lockdown gave Ann Marie the space and sufficient blocks of time for her own explorative work – office space was empty, freed up time with no marketing, workshops or masterclasses, no preparing and running them, no pressure to make finished products. She read up on how other makers are 3D printing onto fabrics, and just jumped in to try out ideas and play.
Finding suitable fabrics
This project is about sustainability and about experimenting in a purposeful way. The initiall issue with lockdown was finding suitable fabric on which to print successfully – fine loose woven fabric that would withstand the temperature of the ‘hot end’ and the extruding filament. Searching through her sewing box and bags of material she found black lace knickers and saw the possibilities. Knickers were duly sacrificed to kick-start the project. Her first test run was disappointing (image on left), not because of the fabric but because the 3D printer was not printing the PLA filament sufficiently well to adhere through the lacy holes to the layers underneath. Tweaking print parameters such as temperature, printing speed, pressure on the filament through the ‘feeder’, etc. helped to improve the results.
The design needed more thought to make best use of the lacy fabric and the patterns. The ‘knickers’ naratives was fun and cheeky and colleagues on online meet-ups enjoyed the narrative.
Image: Red PLA filament printed onto black lace, made into a brooch, one of the first successful 3D prints on fabric. (March/April 2020). The earrings were designed and made later as they explored adding titanium earwires when the printing was paused. This is explained in greater detail in a later post.
Ann Marie found a roll of wide white border lace and designed to both frame the patterns in simply forms and reduce 3D printing waste by removing the need for supports, ‘brims’ and ‘rafts’.
Digital designing for 3D printing and sustainability
Screen capture on the left: digital model created using Anarkik3DDesign. A torus (donut) reforms into a skinny one, is scaled on the y axis into an oval, copy/pasted twice, each oval scaled down, heights adjusted, moved to overlap and rotated a bit. Anarkik3DDesign is optimised for 3D printing so models, in .stl file format, are imported to Ultimaker’s Cura software, sliced, and data transferred in gcode.
The process for 3D printing on white lace.
3D desktop printers use gcode data to accurately print each layers’ x, y parameters. The z parameter depends on nozzle size and how fine the extruded thickness is. After printing ten or so layers Ann Marie manually paused printing in order to stretch the strip of lace over the build plate and first printed layers, secured with bulldog clips to the sides of the build plate, with top and bottom edges taped down, to hold the lace taut. Printing was then resumed.
Tape is not a good solution. The build plate is heated so the tape gets messy and guey, and comes unstuck.
Finishing was relatively easy with no support material or brim to remove from the ovals. A customised brooch pin and hook was fixed to the back to become a birthday present for a friend! (April 2020).
The pink ABS filament printed well but Ann Marie prefers to work with PLA as it is a bit ‘greener’ than the ABS filament. (See previous Sustainable Me post).
This banner below shows some of Ann Marie’s 3D printed samples in gold, pink and black ABS and red PLA polymer filaments on (from the left): lace, silk/steel organza type fabric, lace in a layer under silk/steel organza, japanese paper, silk/steel organza, all made between March and July 2020.
The silk/steel fabric is special, a weave of silk and very fine steel thread. Ann Marie had just 15 cm square. Initially she was quite intimidated by this preciousness, challenged to design forms that justify and use its qualities well. She exploited its shimmeriness, the wirery properties of the metal threads, taking a knife to one piece, slashing the fabric, and teasing out the fibres of steel. With the piece on the left she parted the fibres of the fabric and went on to explore this effect with greater manipulation of the fibres.
Material to play with
Friends and colleagues provided more lace and Ann Marie purchased deadstock organza. Having loads of material to work on, to experiment with meant trying, testing and playing presented interesting discoveries and inevitably some failures – learning curves. And Ann Marie advocates serendipity as chance discoveries lead to all sorts of new avenues.
The japanese paper she tried has fibres tracing through it with random holes of different sizes but only parts of the frame 3D printed successfully where there were holes. As she liked this combination of materials a lot she ‘cheated’ and used adhesive to stick polymer/paper layers firmly together.
This design on the right has a floating torus, held in place by fabric. It also has a double layer of fabric and, in the space between, some bits of filament and some beads were added before the second pause and second layer of fabric (lace) was stretched over and printing resumed.
The banner below shows the process from the design in Anarkik3DDesign on the left to finished piece. The second image shows the design exported as an .stl file to Ultimaker’s Cura software and the panel where an instruction to the printer to pause at a specific layer can be added to the gcode. Instructions transferred on an SD card to the Ultimaker‘s controller mean that the printer duly paused at layer 15, the build plate lowered a bit and the hot-end/extruder moved off to the back right hand corner. With the build plate still near the top of the printer it was really difficult to fix the bulldog clips into place to hold the lace taut. Initially Ann Marie had used manual pausing whereby the build plate moved down a bit making it easier to access the edges with the clips. But the build plate cools too much.
As pieces became more complicated an easier method to hold fabric taut over the first layers was needed. Images above from left to right: Tape became sticky. Long custom-made steel hooks were useful where the fabric was small or narrow or a funny size but could take too long to fix in place. Bulldog clips and other types worked fine but were awkward to put into place as the space between 3D printer sides and the edge of the build plate was tight. Ann Marie devised a fabric edging for the build plate, held in place with corners and clips to which the materials could be swiftly pinned. This also made smaller pieces of fabric usable. To enable Ann Marie get in to pin all four sides the position that the printhead moved to, when printing was paused, was changed via coding in Cura from a back corner to a central position.
This image on the left shows just a limited number of her ‘3D printing on fabric’ pieces on display at the Barn, pinned to the wall in Closing the Loop’s “MATTER | Earth, Material and Making” exhibition, on until 11th November 2022 .
Two of the samples are different in that the 3D printing traps other stuff: fired porcelain off-cuts from Carol Sinclair and ‘O’ rings left over from a previous project. Another post will cover making these.
The next ‘Sustainable Me’ post covers the process in the making of two pieces for selling exhibitions: Red Red Brooch for Dazzle and scarves for Fold. The previous ‘Sustainable Me’ post is an introduction to Ann Marie’s work and also covers the process in making a lampshade from waste spicepots and 3D printed widgets.