Researchers Invent 3D Printer That Makes Soft Objects Out of Wool

Posted on April 29, 2014

3D printer for printing soft materials

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Disney Research have developed a 3D printer that prints in woolen materials. It can make teddy bears, stuffed animals and other soft objects. The developers built a felting printer, which involves a process of needle felting using a barbed needle. The barbed needle draws fibers down into the layers below and entangles them. The final 3D object is formed by working from the bottom of the object up and bonding each layer of the material together using needle felting.

The research write in a new research paper, "This material is a form of loose felt formed when fibers from an incoming feed of yarn are entangled with the fibers in layers below it. The resulting objects recreate the geometric forms specified in the solid models which specify them, but are soft and flexible somewhat reminiscent in character to hand knitted materials. This extends 3D printing from typically hard and precise forms into a new set of forms which embody a different aesthetic of soft and imprecise objects, and provides a new capability for researchers to explore the use of this class of materials in interactive devices."

Here is a video of the soft 3D printer in action. A 3D printed felt bear is created. Take a look:

Photo: Disney Research


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