3D Printers

Ray Kurzweil’s Predictions For 3D Printing at The 2014 Google I/O Conference

When Google’s Head Of Engineering says that soon we will be able to 3D print clothing at home, people tend to listen. When that person also happens to be one of the world’s most renown futurists — Ray Kurzweil — who has an amazing talent for predicting where technology is heading, the impact of such a statement is even deeper. At this year’s Google I/O Conference Mr. Kurzweil has said just that. So, with this in mind, where is 3D printing fashion now, and what else has this key figure in technological development been saying about 3D printing?

Ray Kurzweil, if new to the reader, invented the first large-vocabulary speech recognition, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first CCD flatbed scanner, text-to-speech synthesizer, print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, and many more inventions that forge a dazzling array of patents. Inc. magazine named him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison.” Mr. Kurzweil has also been described as “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes.

If you are new to Mr. Kurzweil’s work, and in particular his predictions of the near future, the following interview with DingXtra may give you a neat surmise of his depth and breadth of insight. The near future world illustrated by Mr. Kurzweil may, to some, seem like audacious fantasy, to others a finely crafted realism, but whatever your opinion of his visions, the accuracy of many of his previous predictions make the pre-emptive paintings of this futurist’s mind worthy of great note.

At Google I/O 2014, which took place June 25-26 at Moscone West in San Francisco, Mr. Kurzweil made a presentation on ‘Biologically Inspired Models Of Intelligence,’ which included a number of very interesting references to 3D printing. Like many others, the futurist calculates that additive manufacturing technologies are currently in their hype phase, and that it will be around five years before the tech set is where it needs to be to enable a major paradigm shift. Kurzweil states that he does believe that this will happen. By the 2020’s he iterates that he foresees downloadable 3D printable fashion designs being commonplace. He cites open source as a means unto this end.

Back to the present, 3D printed fashion now certainly exists as a minor field of application of industrial additive manufacturing technologies and desktop 3D printing. Clothing digital fabricators are already available, albeit highly nascent. The OpenKnit machine costs about $700 to build. There is also an online file repository for open source digital fashion patterns already, named do KNIT yourself, again it is in its very earliest stages. Moreover, there are specific websites dedicated to 3D printed fashion, such as Additive Fashion. You can also find the very latest news on fashion produced by 3D printing here at 3DPI on the Fashion section, here.

[censored] Made In the Neighbourhood (ft. a clothing printer, OpenKnit) from Gerard Rubio on Vimeo.

Many organisations are designing and selling 3D printing jewellery. Retailers such as New Balance are 3D printing shoes. Designers such as Ron Arad are 3D printing sunglasses. Continuum was among the first to create 3D printed garments with their bikini line. Iris van Herpen has produced numerous critically acclaimed 3D printed couture collections. Fashion designer Michael Schmidt collaborated with architect Francis Bitonti to make a scintillating dress for fashion model Dita Von Teese. British designer Catherine Wales is know for her Project DNA collection of 3D printed masks, apparel and accessories. Even the ever bold and brazen Lady Gaga has been seen walking a red carpet in Studio XO’s 3D printed Parametric Sculpture Dress.


Right at the very top of the upper echelons of global production, Nike is experimenting with 3D printed sportswear, including the first footwear with integral 3D printed elements in their Vapor Laser Talon football boots, and the Rebento Duffle Bag, which takes advantage of the unique qualities of 3D printed personalised production by featuring custom gold hardware with the names of the world famous soccer players that carried them at the FIFA 2014 World Cup. There has even been a partially 3D printed dress designed to create music with Tesla coils in a dazzling display of science, technology, entertainment and fashion, created by Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht for the band ArcAttack.

Dita Von Teese in 3D printed Michael Schmidt dress
The Dita Von Teese 3D-printed gown by Michael Schmidt is one of many objects in the MAD exhibition.

Mr. Kurzweil predicts that open source development will be important for near future printed fashion. With large companies such as Google already using various models of open source development, the RepRap open source hardware project kickstarting a new era of desktop 3D printing, alongside some recent large corporate additions to the list of users of open source hardware such as Autodesk with the annoucement of their Spark 3D Printer and platform, and the Tesla Motors open patent announcement that surprised many; Kurweil’s prediction of the use of open source in home 3D printed fashion is futuristic, but not unprecedented. As to whether it is any kind of certitude is far beyond my ability to comment.

There is a significant leap of imagination, innovation, infrastructure and implication between the modes of mass production that currently encompass the design, production and distribution of clothing, and that of a world where logistics are turned on their head by the use of the personal factory of near future desktop 3D printing devices and their analogous counterparts. Kurzweil touches upon far reaching estimations of the progress of additive manufacturing in his presentation, which pushes the limits of human thought regarding the potential application of the technologies with his usual genius. Those predictions do not even seer the farthest reaches of predictions of progress for additive manufacturing by Kurzweil, which have touched upon the molecular assemblers of the future. A future that Kurzweil predicts will occur this century.

You can catch the full presentation by Ray Kurzweil at this years Google I/O below. A few pertinant related websites include: KurzweilAI – the futurists own site, and Singularity University – the cutting-edge educational institution co-founded by Mr. Kurzweil, and a handy list of all of Google’s new announcements at their 2014 conference, here.