Can we stream fashion? The market for 3D printing is starting to resemble the market for music. Just like you can download your favorite song, movie or show from the Internet, designs for a variety of 3D printable products are already available online via open source collaboration or paid downloads from the designers themselves.
Faster internet has facilitated the rise of streaming services, and has further changed how we access our favorite media. If we’re already streaming music, movies, and TV shows, what kinds of things will we stream in the future?
Just Stream It
In the same way that we stream a movie from Netflix’s servers onto our screens, in the not so distant future, we might stream a recipe into our 3D food printer. If a door handle breaks, we might purchase and stream the design part from IKEA and print it using our home 3D printer.
As printers become more affordable and designs become more available, 3D printing undoubtedly has the potential to transform heavy manufacturing and large scale construction. By the same token, when combined with the streaming potential of the Internet, Additive Manufacturing techniques like 3D printing also have the potential to transform other manufacturing sectors like the textile industry.
Redefining “Fast Fashion”
Fashion designer Danit Peleg is on the forefront of future fashion, and has been experimenting with 3D printed designs since 2014. She created an entire collection of 3D printed clothes and shoes from a plastic-based fiber called FilaFlex. The design members that just two years ago, it took her 2,000 hours to print a single collection. Current printers can do the same work much faster.
Because designs can be printed with bioplastics, Peleg sees a more sustainable future for fashion future in which we recycle our 3D printed clothes. When fashion changes and “in” becomes “out”, we would be able to use our old clothes to print new the newest trends. When “out” comes back “in”, we could easily restream and reprint older designs (if they’re still available and not limited edition).
More importantly, the ability to print and recycle our clothes ourselves our would help eliminate exploitative labor practices that are too common in overseas textile manufacturing.
From an operational perspective, eliminating physical stores could notably reduce overhead costs for businesses, and may not necessarily jeopardize jobs in retail. Instead of having physical sales clerks, stores could transition the role to online managers and representatives available for consultations with the client.
Manufacturing Comes Home
Ironically, new technologies like streaming and 3D printing are encouraging a return to the more decentralized economic models of the past. Before modern textile manufacturing was invented during the first Industrial Revolution in Europe, most homes had their own simple spinning wheel. Girls learned to spin fibers and weave fabrics from their mothers and produced clothes and linens for their families. Overtime, textile production was taken out of the home and placed on the factory floor, and by the turn of the 20th Century, further technological advancements and the introduction of assembly line manufacturing gave rise to department stores.
3D printing combined with streaming may create a future takes textile manufacturing out of the factory and back into our homes. If we are able to stream fashion designs directly from designers and online shops and print them directly in our own homes, brick-and-mortar stores may become obsolete. Being able to stream and print designs at home would also give shoppers more freedom to customize their favorite designs by changing colors or tailoring them to their unique body measurements and personal taste.