Weaving industry is one of the oldest industries; the weaving techniques haven’t changed for centuries. So is it the right time to disrupt the way we make clothes for ourselves? The answer would be yes if you ask the Nigerian American industrial designer OluwaseyiSosanya.
This idea struck OluwaseyiSosanya while he was studying at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. He decided to make a 3d Printer that would use Cotton and Wool as raw material and makes clothes in 3 Dimension. Talking about this invention which he calls a 3D Weaver, he said “We have been using the same sort of weaving techniques for thousands of years. This shirt that I am wearing right now is woven in the same way as a shirt that was made 3,000 years ago”.
Mr. Sosanya’s 3d Weaver is a modified 3d printer that has Aluminum tubes at the base which works as a guide for the nozzle to lay layers of raw material. The feeders then lays the material in the shapes dictated by a set pattern programmed into a computer. Once all the material is extruded in the set pattern, the Silicone coated threads solidifies making it look like a hard honeycomb structure. Once the silicone on the thread cools the whole structure can be slid from the aluminum tubes.
Talking about the process Mr. Sosanya explained that in traditional weaving methods, there are things like warp and the weft. Longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling.In this 3d Weaver he replaced the warp with the aluminum tubes so that the layers can be built up and then held together by a binder, which in this case is Silicone.
Back in London Oluwaseyi learned how soles of the navy shoes were made,so he decided that shoes would be the first illustration of a new method of weaving in three dimensions. He further explained that Custom-made shoes are one of the best potential uses for this machine.
“You have all of these opportunities now where you can do customization around footwear. With this [weaving system] you can pre-programmed the density. At the ball of your foot, you may want a denser material. Right at the arch of your foot, you might want a softer material. At the heel, you might want a denser material. You can have that in one go.
The current method for doing that is using different densities of foam, cutting them up, getting a specialist to layer and gluing them on top of each other and making these custom insoles by hand which are really expensive. I could press a button on a machine after an algorithm which runs over the ball of your foot and the underside of your foot which tells me the where the densities and the stresses are and it is done in one go.”
He also explained how these custom shoes would be a perfect fit for the person it’s designed for. “Sometimes a size 9 is not the same on all feet, a problem which can now be alleviated by 3D scans which can define the exact shape of each foot. Your foot is completely different to my foot,” said Sosanya. “We walk different, our cadence is different. All of these things are factors which play into the performance of our footwear. Now with 3D printing, you can scan your foot and you can scan an insole or even a whole sole or the whole shoe at some point.
OluwaseyiSosanya’s 3D weaver certainly looks like a Printer with tremendous opportunities of practical uses. What we do not know is how much time it takes to print as its practical use would greatly depend on it.