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3D Printed Soft Sculpture & Beyond

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3D Printed Soft Sculpture & Beyond

Kari Lorenson

An exciting development was announced this week by Carnegie Mellon and Disney Research Pittsburgh. Professor Scott Hudson who works in Carnegie Melon's Human Computer Interaction Institute is developing a 3D printing machine that works with wool fibers. The machine uses a barbed needle known as a felting needle, operating in essence as an adaptation of a needle felting machine or otherwise called embellishing machine. Professor Hudson with Disney Research support has taken the felting needle to the next level. Similar to the process executed with other types of 3D printing machines, a design is established in a CAD program (think working along the X, Y and Z axes) and the dimensional object is translated  into a code of ones and zeros that are read by the machine as layers to be consecutively built up to form a 3D object. 

Needle felting is a dry felting technique that utilizes one or many barbed needles punching and ultimately fusing wool fibers together. The wool fibers lock and become enmeshed becoming a denser material as the needle is inserted into the fiber more and more. Needle felting is a popular method for creating 3 dimensional forms using wool fibers. As the footage of the machine in process so far reveals, this could be useful for 3D soft forms and integrating with the wool other components such as embedded sensors or electronic systems that would be enmeshed in the wool. Wool is naturally fire retardant and has historically had a significant role in machining and industrial applications for it's sound absorption capabilities, shock absorption, strength and durability in harsh climates among other strengths. 

A 3-D printer developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh feeds yarn into desired shapes and uses a needle to turn the yarn into a loose felt. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University/Disney Research Pittsburgh

A 3-D printer developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh feeds yarn into desired shapes and uses a needle to turn the yarn into a loose felt. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University/Disney Research Pittsburgh

With the ever burgeoning development of 3D printing technologies and as the wearable technology sector continues to spark more start-up businesses,  the innovative possibilities this holds for the textile industry and of course artists and designers is exciting. 

Knotwe has reached out to Professor Scott Hudson and will be interviewing him for more details about his research and the development of this machine. To see the machine in motion visit: Printing Teddy Bears: A Technique for 3D Printing of Soft Interactive Objects