Natalie Simpson December 7, 2015

What’s it like moving from fashion designing in 2D with pencil and paper to 3D modelling on a computer? That’s what we asked Hannah Evans, a student at The London Royal College of Art, who collaborated with Materialise to explore the combined potential of 3D Printing and knitwear, to create a concept eyewear collection.

“Using the 3D-modelling software I found I became bolder, more courageous with my designs. I was able to explore ideas in a way I’m not able to with the usual methods for design,” explained Hannah. For Materialise, Hannah’s expertise in knitted structures and textures could contribute to exciting new applications for 3D-printed fashion—but more on that later! Here’s how Hannah is using her newfound access to 3D Printing with unique effect.

Hannah Evans
Hannah Evans

3D Printing and Fashion

Currently studying Fashion Womenswear Knitwear, Hannah entered and won The Eyewear Design Competition run by 100% Optical tradeshow. Students from RCA were invited to submit eyewear designs under the categories Couture and Ready to Wear with the prize for winning, an internship with leading eyewear company, Mondottica Eyewear.

As part of her internship Hannah was tasked with exploring the opportunities in 3D Printing for eyewear, and combining this with her specialism in knitwear textures and structures to create a concept eyewear collection. A sponsor of the project, Materialise gave Hannah full access to resources including design support, software, and print services, in order to identify how 3D Printing could be used to replicate and create knitwear structures and textures.

Hannah Evans and Nils Faber, Concept Development Engineer at Materialise
Hannah Evans and Nils Faber, Concept Development Engineer at Materialise

It wasn’t simple, however. Hannah had to pave her own way through the new world of 3D Printing. Before joining Materialise, she had followed the adoption of 3D Printing in the fashion industry and found it interesting but wasn’t sure how it could integrate with her own work in knitwear. “Of the examples that I had seen, they were using 3D printing to create embellishments rather than the complete knitted garment. I could see how this would work but I wasn’t sure how you could use the knitting process to construct something that you could actually wear,” she says.

Working with Nils Faber, Concept Development Engineer at Materialise, Hannah started to explore the kinds of structures that you can create with 3D Printing, using the modelling software to replicate knitwear patterns and then printing them to evaluate the levels of movement and flexibility that could be achieved.

Exploring 3D Modelling and New Possibilities

Her favorite new discovery from computer-aided design? The freedom that 3D printing offers for the design process. “Quite often I find there is a big disconnect between what I draw on a piece of paper and then what I actually make when I am working on a stand. With 3D modelling that step can be removed – you are able to progress to working directly in 3D and visualize things in a way not possible before without creating a physical model.”

This discovery gave Hannah the ability to take the concepts of knitted structures and design them in a different way. Additionally, 3D Printing afforded a new level of physical flexibility. “From a 3D printing perspective it’s a different flexibility, knitwear structures are already flexible but then 3D printing allows for a different type of movement again so it’s really interesting to see how those worlds collide.” The design process and structures weren’t the only new opportunities Hannah got from 3D Printing.

“You can use materials that just aren’t physically possible on a knit machine, which completely expands the possibilities with knitwear. Now I can consider creating something in a plastic that you just couldn’t feed through a normal knitwear machine.”

For Nils, the project required a different, fun and challenging approach: “Typically, the projects I work on will involve rigid forms designed for functionality, this project allowed us to work with the aesthetic vision and put it into a concept. Through bringing together Hannah’s craftsmanship with our experience, we were able to apply knitwear principles to 3D Printing – using the same weaving principles and turning them into 3D concepts. It was a great experience to work on this project with Hannah and see the opportunities that come about when bringing together the two areas of expertise.”

Hannah will continue her exploration into 3D Printing, and its possibilities with eyewear and knitwear. She is excited to see how it feeds alongside traditional knitwear and what may come about bringing the two sides of the industry together.