3D Printing on Fabric Experiments

I was wondering for a while about 3D printing on fabric, and have finally decided to give it a try. I did a couple of tests and it turned out that 3D printing PLA or TPU on fabric doesn’t have strong enough adhesion and the printed pieces could be relatively easily peeled off. I tried printing dual color (purple and gold) silk PLA at 210F nozzle temperature on a piece of costume satin (100% polyester) and thought that perhaps the filament would melt into it, like it melts into previously printed layer. Although it looked great, it didn’t stick well enough – I was able to peel off the print quite easily.

I then switched to TPU, which prints at 230F, hoping this gives it a better chance to fuse into the fabric. The stickiness improved somewhat, but it was still insufficient. The drawback with TPU was that it spat out too many strings, which would be tedious to clean up.

I also tried printing on a piece of cotton fabric, thinking that perhaps this would allow the filament to bond better with the fabric that isn’t so slick, but alas: the print came off even easier than from satin.

I’ve seen some YT videos where people successfully print TPU on T-shirts and the print is able to withstand washing and drying. I will have to look into it more, perhaps there’s a specific TPU filament brand that works well for this purpose, but at this point I have moved on to a different strategy: 3D printing on tulle, or fine netting. The first layer (or couple of layers) is printed normally on a build surface, then the printing needs to pause with extruder moved out of the way, and the piece of tulle is taped onto the build surface (or secured with clips), and as the printing continues, the next layer is fused with previous one, which makes the print practically inseparable from tulle. Such 3D print is usable for different applications, because it can be sewn onto different fabrics easily by hand or sewing machine, and will be hardly noticeable, due to its fineness. The first test I’ve done has worked out really well:

I then experienced some clogging issues and have started several prints in purple-gold silk PLA, but had to stop them before first layer was finished, due to uneven extrusion and improper adhesion. These little stars and triangles ended up everywhere! PLA surely has some static charge which will make it stick to various surfaces, and the single layer shapes will fly off in all directions after getting scraped off the build plate – I had a bunch stuck on the inside of the trash can’s lid and the wall next to it. As confetti, they had a nice, shimmery look. I ended up adjusting the model to have a bit larger shapes, and added some lettering to see how that will look and hold up. I was able to unclog the hot end and the printing resumed well. I ended up with similar result as above, but this time I went ahead and made something with it:

The two dots (one on J and the other for dot com) have fallen off, so I replaced them with glass beads while stitching this piece of tulle to the satin. I used purple embroidery floss and have made running stitches between the stars in all three directions. I also stitched top and bottom edge of tulle with sewing machine, and the sides were tucked into the seam. This ended up being a gift bag and has been given away. I’m eager to continue experimenting and have some ideas for what to try next.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *