Here’s a name you didn’t expect to find on the New York Fashion Week docket: MakerBot. Better known for producing consumer-grade three-dimensional printers that squirt layers of molten plastic in place of ink, the Brooklyn startup challenged designer Francis Bitonti to create a dress using its experimental “Flexible Filament,” a biodegradable, plant-based fiber that remains pliable even after it’s extruded from the machine. “MakerBot Flexible Filament is different than traditional 3D-printing filaments that are solid and stiff after extrusion,” says Bre Pettis, MakerBot’s CEO. “With its flexibility and suppleness, this could revolutionize 3D printing.”
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TWIST AND SHOUT
The result is the “Verlan” dress, the spiritual sister of an earlier Bitonti creation that burlesque star Dita von Teese modeled to considerable fanfare in March. While the “Dita” dress consisted of 2,633 independent links, each of which had to be manually assembled, the Verlan required only 59. The body of the dress is derived almost entirely from MakerBot’s Flexible Filament, with some traditional MakerBot PLA Filament to buttress its chest and shoulders.
Bitonti printed the dress using two MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printers, which ran for close to 24 hours a day for two weeks.
Bitonti created the Verlan as part of the “New Skins: Computational Design for Fashion” workshop he held at the Pratt Institute’s Digital Arts and Humanities Research Center in July. The workshop printed the whole dress using two MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printers, which ran for close to 24 hours a day for two weeks—a total of 400 hours of printing.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how easy the MakerBots were to use,” Bitonti says. “The quality was on par with any industrial 3D-printed pieces we have commissioned previously. It was great to have the MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers in the studio and provided the students the ability to have immediate feedback on their designs by printing them during the design process.”
Currently held at the Pratt Institute, the Verlan will be available for public gawking at a Bitonti exhibit in New York City later this fall.