Soft, flexible and stretchable – new functional filaments for 3D printing on textiles

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) offers growing potential in numerous industries and, with its many advantages, is also becoming increasingly interesting for the textile sector. Textile fabrics can be partially printed in a targeted manner and thus functionalized. The most suitable process for 3D printing on textiles is the fused deposition modelling (FDM) process. With this technology, the thermoplastic material is applied as a melt to a textile surface. The thermoplastic polymers are used in the form of a solid, thin strand, the filament. This is fed from a roll directly to the nozzle, where it is melted and applied.

In addition to many advantages, there is currently a very big disadvantage for use in the textile sector. The filaments available on the market are for the most part too hard/rigid and therefore do not have the desired softness, flexibility or stretchability for a textile application. On the other hand, only a few filaments contain special additives to add additional functionalities such as e.g. flame retardancy, colour, optical effects, abrasion resistance and antimicrobial efficacy.

Functionalized thermoplastic filaments for 3D printing have been developed at the Saxon Textile Research Institute e.V., which are particularly suitable for application to textiles.