3DPI.TV – Is Digital Knitting a form of 3D Printing?

Whether you use a purist definition of 3D printing to answer that question, or are more inclusive, what is harder to argue is that more and more ‘additive creative machines’, are emerging across the expanding ‘maker movement’ — machines that make things, additively, following digital instructions.

What we are talking here is not based on FDM or Freeform Fabrication 3D printing processes. This is called OpenKnit and represents the revolution of Soft Digital Fabrication. An OpenKnit machine is in many ways similar to an FDM/FFF 3D printer, except it makes clothes. It uses needles and a needle carriage instead of an extruder head. The carriage is controlled by an encoder that moves it and knows its exact position at any time. Instead of filament there are three threads, one for each tubular section of the garment, and three thread guides that move them along.

Like many 3D printers, OpenKnit is controlled by an Arduino Leonardo board, and just like a 3D printer it follows instructions from a digital file. Gerardo Rubio created the machine, that he intends to sell for less than €550 as a mean to counteract current clothing industry dynamics, that have concentrated on mass fabrication of textile goods and low costs through precarious working conditions, with an inevitable and damaging impact on society and the environment.

Rubio says he was inspired by the RepRap project and refers to the OpenKnit machine as a printer. Lately the definition of 3D printing has become fuzzier. For sure this can be considered a digital manufacturing additive process and that may be enough to consider it 3D printing.

Check out the OpenKnit introduction video: