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Old skills, new product

As a child Dr Franz Freudenthal visited indigenous communities in the mountains of Bolivia with his doctor grandmother. On these trips she would quote a snippet of Rudyard Kipling “Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the mountains. Something lost behind the mountains. Lost and waiting for you. Go!” It seems unlikely he could have predicted the importance of the words or the trips. As a paediatric cardiologist he went on to utilise the weaving skills of the indigenous Aymara women to develop an implant to close ‘holes in the heart’.

The device is woven by Aymara women in a clean room environment from a single strand of Nitinol, a nickel-titanium alloy that is superelastic and has shape memory. These material properties allow the woven implant to be compressed inserted into the body via a catheter in the groin and only expanded to its ‘top hat’ form when it is correctly positioned in the heart.

“The most important thing is that we try to get really really simple solutions for complex problems” Dr Franz Freudenthal, Paediatric Cardiologist

Website link: “A new way to heal hearts without surgery”, TED 

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Plastic built by food poisoning (sort of)

Apparently bacteria can be engineered to produce thermoplastics. This is not a fact I knew and is casually mentioned on the website of the BiOrigami team of undergraduates from Standford and Brown universities who are developing a method of producing plastic and then causing it to fold into useful objects based on E.coli bacteria. This is rather different to injection moulding or extruding an object!

The motivation behind the project is to allow tools to be produced in space by astronauts, for example, on flights to Mars, to help reduce the weight of equipment taken.

Website link: BiOrigami Stanford-Brown

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Taking the hard edges off 3D printing

3D printing can seem a magical way to produce an object as if from nowhere. It is often presented as a one stop way to produce a product but what it often lacks is a pleasing or tactile surface finish. Here at Thread we spend alot of time working with textiles and other flexible materials that it’s really exciting to see a 3D printing technique that creates a soft object. Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh have developed a new type of 3D printer that uses wool or wool blend yarns to create a felted object.

Website link: Carnegie Mellon University, Press Release, 28th April 2014

Website link: Disney Research

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Pickled fabric? Not quite, but it is grown in a jar.

Fermenting cellulose
Fermenting cellulose

Designer Suzanne Lee has produced (and continues to develop) a fabric that comes from a zoogleal mat formed during the fermentation of a sweetened tea. The fabric that is produced is still made up of cellulose (like cotton, linen, viscose and rayon) but it comes not from plants but from bacteria. The fabric that is produced has similarities with very thin leather, though sadly it’s performance in the rain is less resilient as it tends to become a little mushy.

It sounds as though the fabric is being developed further so I look forward to seeing its progress.

Website link: Popular Science, BioCouture

Website link: BioCouture

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Knitting as the first additive manufacturing

Interesting to chat to Hal Watts from Unmade at a reception for The 1851 Commission (an amazing organisation who funded both Hal and me to study at the RCA) about knitting as the earliest form of Additive Manufacture. In knitting you take a continuous material to form an object without waste and without removing excess – sounds like additive manufacture, no?

Website link: Unmade

Website link: The Royal Commission for the Great Exhbition of 1851

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Did I shrink my jumper?

Here at Thread, we relish visits to manufacturers (we’ve even been known to visit factories when we’re on holiday).

Recently we’ve been looking into seamless knitting for a few projects. It’s an intriguing manufacturing process as the properties of a garment (such as stretch or ventilation) can be varied in different parts of the garment without using a second material. This removes seams between panels which can make tight-fitting garments more comfortable. It’s also able to create small-scale details (hence the mouse jumper in the picture).

 

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3D knitted spikes by Nike

The upper of the Nike Flyknit is like no other trainer or spike. Instead of being created from a number of panels stitched together it is knitted as a single piece (including the tongue). The upper has different properties in different areas. This allows the upper to be supportive where needed whilst also being breathable and incredibly light. At 110g it weighs roughly half of what a standard pair of spikes would. As an athlete (realistically an ex-athlete but I haven’t quite hung up my spikes), this sounds incredible. The lighter the shoe, the less energy you waste by making your feet heavier. Also, the more connected you feel to the ground which can help to improve running technique. The manufacturing engineer in me is intrigued by the 3D knitting process that came out of 4 years of R&D and required new machines to be developed. Perhaps understandably Nike don’t seem to have made public much technical detail of how these magical knitting machines work. That’s one factory I would love to have a good look around!

Website link: Nike Flyknit performance track spike

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The end of the seam? 3D printed garments on the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week S/S 2013

A series of garments were shown in Iris Van Herpen’s collection at Paris Fashion Week S/S 2013 that were 3D printed in a single piece using Materialse’s Mammoth Sterolithography machines. As they are created in a single piece they have no seam lines. This has an especially beautiful effect as the ‘fabric’ they have created has a lace-like structure that is able to run down from the shoulders and under the arm in a continuous pattern rather than having break lines where the panels of the dress would usually be stitched together. The shape and form of most tailored garments from suits to waterproof jackets for skiing, climbing etc are created through the positioning of seams and darts and the seam itself can change the proprties of the material at that point (eg. making it stiffer and less flexible). If the garment is created in a single piece it breaks the link between material property and shape. This sounds like it has potential for more function driven applications such as postural support garments and protective clothing where the item has to have certain properties (eg stiffness, stretch or permeability) but the fit and comfort of the garment is paramount to its overall success.

Website link: Materialise – large scale 3D printed of total garments

Website link: Iris Van Herpen – Voltage haute couture collection