Boston-based digital manufacturing company Voxel8 has announced an exclusive agreement with Italian fashion accessory manufacturer Eddy Ricami for the use of Voxel8’s ActiveLab 3D printing technology to produce high-end fashion accessories.
Installing the ActiveLab system at its Montecosaro manufacturing facility in Italy will enable Eddy Ricami to offer unique functional design embellishments to its customers for their footwear and apparel products, while delivering shorter design cycle times, reduced lead times, and lower inventory costs.
“Voxel8 technology has gained global commercial traction in athletic and leisure footwear, and we are delighted to expand our reach into the European high fashion market with a distinguished partner such as Eddy Ricami who have built a reputation for innovation and quality,” said Friedrich von Gottberg, Voxel8 CEO.
“We look forward to collaborating with our partner to bring the benefits of Voxel8 technology to the fashion industry.”
Voxel8’s 3D printing technology
Voxel8 was founded in 2014 as a spin-out from Harvard University headed by Dr. Jennifer Lewis, a Harvard professor with a substantial portfolio of 3D printing, materials, and electronics research.
In 2015, the company unveiled its first multi-material electronics printer, the Voxel8 Developers Kit, a low-cost 3D printer capable of simultaneously 3D printing in PLA and conductive silver ink, with the PLA stored in the base of the printer and the ink located directly in the printhead itself. Plastic is extruded out of one portion of the printhead and the conductive ink is dispensed out of another to create electric traces.
Voxel8’s proprietary toolpath software enabled the printer to pause at the appropriate moment during a print task for the manual embedding of electronics, such as transistors and resistors, within the print, before printing continued and concluded with a fully-functional object on the printbed.
The machine’s multi-material capabilities opened up an immense range of possibilities for the printing of electronic objects in one piece, an example of which was a quadcopter showcased at CES 2015 by the firm, within which the electronics, battery, and motors had been inserted throughout the printing process.
Later that year, Voxel8 raised $12 million in funding to further develop its technology and develop another machine capable of printing a greater variety of materials, such as elastomers.
Moving into the footwear and apparel sectors
Since initially stepping onto the scene in 2015, Voxel8’s focus has shifted more toward multi-material printing within the footwear and apparel industries with its ActiveLab digital manufacturing technology.
The ActiveLab system prints flexible elastomeric materials with specific mechanical properties and design graphics woven onto the textiles throughout the printing process. Voxel8’s ActiveMix technology, which supports both extrusion and spray deposition modes, enables users to digitally fabricate functional features and change the material properties of the printed structures on-the-fly during the printing process. Meanwhile, its ActiveImage inkjet technology allows users to embed high-resolution color graphics into the elastomers for greater customization opportunities.
The ActiveLab system encompasses the company’s ActiveMix and ActiveImage technologies to provide a multi-material digital manufacturing machine capable of product development, wear testing, and limited production runs of high-performance athletic footwear uppers and other sporting goods. To facilitate this, the company has developed a set of raw materials that can be dynamically mixed to create elastomers spanning a wide range of mechanical properties within a single print, ranging from soft rubber to rigid plastic.
Voxel8’s ActiveLab technology has been utilized for applications within the athletic sportswear market, such as footwear uppers, protective gear, and apparel. The technology has also been deployed within the wearable electronics and medical sectors for electric sensors for health monitoring and prosthetic features, in addition to specialized robotic grippers and precision gaskets within the industrial market.
“Our technology fundamentally transforms how fashion footwear, apparel and accessories are developed and produced,” said Percy Chinoy, Director of Business Development at Voxel8. “It enables manufacturers to offer unique design embellishments to their customers with shorter design cycle times, reduced manufacturing lead times and inventory costs, and lowers costs associated with tooling, freight, and tariffs.
3D printing high-fashion accessories
The ActiveLab digital manufacturing system Eddy Ricami has purchased from Voxel8 will be installed at its Montecosaro manufacturing facility in Italy. The technology will enable the firm to respond far quicker to the demands of its high-fashion customers for high-quality and custom-designed products, while removing the supply chain risks of overseas production.
“Through our purchase of the ActiveLab system we look to bring new, customized design elements, leveraging the latest in additive manufacturing technology,” said Gianluca Bordoni, CEO and Owner of Eddy Ricami. “In our evaluation of 3D printing offerings, we found Voxel8’s technology was uniquely positioned for printing on textiles.
“This is an example of our continued commitment to implement innovative technical solutions to provide our customers with distinctive products.”
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Featured image shows the ActiveLab System fundamentally transforms how footwear, apparel and accessories are developed and produced. Photo via Voxel8.