Nervous System's 3D Printed Kinematics Dress Acquired by MoMa

Those familiar with 3D printed fashion are also familiar with just how uncomfortable it looks.  No matter how beautiful the dresses of Iris van Herpen or Francis Bitonti have been, it’s difficult to quite imagine an actual person wearing those works of art.  About a year ago, 3D printing design studio Nervous System announced the development of a new design and manufacturing method called Kinematics.

The idea was both meant to tackle such issues of movement and comfort in 3D printed fashion, as well as to drive forward the evolution of the design and production of 3D printed works.  By creating a necklace made up of individual hinged pieces that could be digitally folded before printing, Nervous Systems was able to fabricate an object larger than the build volume of a given printer.  A form of 4D printing, items made via Kinematics are pulled from the printer and unfolded to reveal, large, elaborate pieces.

3D printed kinematics dress from nervous system 4D printing

The design studio hinted at eventual applications of the technology, but it wasn’t until today that they demonstrated just how far Kinematics could go.  Nervous System has unveiled a 4D printed dress designed with Kinematics, something so breathtaking and breathable that even the Museum of Modern Art in New York couldn’t pass it up.  The Kinematics Dress – composed of 2,279 individual, triangular panels joined together by 3,316 hinges – was fabricated as a single, folded piece at the Shapeways factory in New York City.  The nylon dress, along with the software used to create it, has been acquired by MoMa as a part of their permanent collection.

3D printed kinematics dress nervous systems twirlUnlike previous 3D printed garments, the Kinematics Dress is flowing and flexible.  And, as opposed to traditional fabric, the material is not uniform throughout, but, as NS explains in their blogpost, varies in rigidity, drape, flex, porosity and pattern through space. The big evolution with this piece, however, is that there is no construction involved in the manufacturing of this dress.  The studio elaborates:

 Bodies are 3-dimensional but clothing is traditionally made from flat material that is cut and painstakingly pieced together. In contrast, Kinematics garments are created in 3D, directly from body scans and require absolutely no assembly. We employ a smart folding strategy to compress Kinematics garments into a smaller form for efficient fabrication. By folding the garments prior to printing them, we can make complex structures larger than a 3D printer that unfold into their intended shape automatically.

Up at the Nervous System site, you can already begin composing your own printable dress with Kinematics Cloth, the design studio’s first clothing app.  The app implements body modelling technology from BodyLabs, so that you can generate a model that roughly resembles your own shape.  Completely intuitive, the Kinematics Cloth app allows you to modify the silhouette of the dress, as well as the individual triangles that make up all of its parts.  When you’re done, you can purchase your design through NS.

Wondering how and when you’ll be able to get a Kinematics garment? I was! So, I asked Nervous System Creative Director Jessica Rosenkrantz those questions.  Rosenkrantz says that production of the dress is still being worked out, telling me, “We still have some more testing, refining and fulfillment decisions to make before we start actively selling garments. We have Kinematics Cloth app where you can design your own pieces but as of yet we’ve only printed one and we would like to do some more tests. Also we worked with Shapeways to produce this dress but we had to work outside of their normal process. Because of the complexity of the design in terms of the number of interlocking parts and need for precision we can’t upload Kinematics designs to their server and they can’t go through their automated file checking procedures.  For now we will be producing them for special order only.”

My wife wants us to get married again so that she can have a white Kinematics Dress, while the bridesmaids all wear similar 3D printed dresses, but in chartreuse.  Just to scope out the money situation, I asked her the approximate price of the dress, to which Rosenkrantz replied, “I’m not sure yet. I can tell you that the dress cost about $3,000 just to print. This dress was quite large because we felt it was essential to have a large, full skirt that would highlight the draping and movement.”  Not bad compared to the cost of a traditional wedding dress.

3D printed Kinematics Dress from Nervous SystemBut, you might, wonder, is it comfortable? Rosenkratz tells me that, as light as this dress is, they’re working to make it even lighter, “This dress weighs about 5lbs. I’ve worn it and did not find it too heavy but we’d definitely like to get the weight down a bit. We were conservative on the thickness and tolerances of this dress because we wanted it to be very durable. For our second dress we are thinning the panels out more to reduce the weight.”

Not to hype or anything, but this dress will change everything as you know it!  If you don’t believe me, take a good gander at this .gif.  Can’t you just imagine slipping on your VR headset, browsing the web for your next ensemble, and being seeing this virtual model doing a twirl?  In a soothing voice: “Presenting the Kinematics Dress.  Please stand still for a full body scan. Your outfit will be presented momentarily.”

For more information on the production of the dress, including that oh-so-tense moment in which the dress is pulled from the Shapeways EOS printer and depowdered, watch the fascinating video below: