When it comes to shopping for clothes, you’ve generally got two options: either travel to a physical store to get everything, or stay at home and buy online. Shopping at physical stores requires travel and time, but you receive your items of apparel right away. Shopping online is ridiculously easy, but you typically don’t receive your goods for a couple days.
What if there were a better way? What if, instead of traveling to a store or waiting a couple days for something to arrive, you could simply click a few buttons and have a piece of clothing materialize right before your eyes? It might sound ridiculous — but that’s exactly what SF-based startup Electroloom is working on. For the past few years, the company has been developing a machine that can create real, fabric-based (though non-woven) clothing.
The company’s eponymous device is difficult to describe. The creators liken it to a 3D printer for clothing, but it’s unlike any 3D printer you’ve ever laid eyes on. Rather than creating garments with a series of snap-together plastic parts, the Electroloom uses a process it calls Field Guided Fabrication — which looks less like 3D printing and more like a cotton candy machine that’s gone haywire.
Basically, the machine employs a technique called electrospinning to convert a liquid solution into fibers, which are squirted out of a nozzle and guided onto a 3D mold by the machine’s internal electric field. Once there, they bond together to form a non-woven fabric that can flex, drape, and fold just like the fabrics you’re wearing right now.
The process is still a little rough around the edges, but the team’s latest prototypes are already capable of producing things like tank tops, skirts, and beanies. The team is also working to develop new liquids that can be spun into fabric, so users will have more options on color and fabric type.
It’s a work in progress, and to help raise money for further development, Electroloom’s creators have recently turned to the crowdfunding community on Kickstarer for help. You can’t pre-order the finished product quite yet, but the company is offering a small number of alpha prototypes to developers interested in helping refine the technology. You’ll need to dish out $4,500 to get your hands on one, and if that’s too steep, a pledge of 100 bucks will get you one of Electroloom’s printed skirts or tank tops.