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Sustainable 3D-printed fashion created with biomaterial

Swatches | June 1, 2024 | By:

In collaboration with Brigitte Kock, a 3D fashion designer, Balena created a collection of 3D-printed garments, including trousers with cutouts on the side and a cropped shirt with open back panels. The pants become more transparent at the bottom and more opaque at the top to allow someone to easily wear them out on the town. Images: Balena/Marina Atyson

3D-printed fashion allows for personalization and on-demand production, but it can be difficult to source sustainable materials. Balena, a materials science company based in Italy, and 3D fashion designer Brigitte Kock, founder of the studio Variable Seams, have tackled this problem using Balena’s FlexTex3D technology and its BioCir®flex3D material to make a collection of 3D-printed garments.

BioCirflex3D is a bio-based, compostable thermoplastic material that can be processed through injection molding, extrusion and 3D printing. It offers an alternative to materials such as thermoplastic polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride and low-density polyethylene.

“During my master’s, I tried to create an alternative biomaterial and discovered how difficult it is to design stretchable filaments and unfortunately, had to conclude that this was not a project I could do by myself. Throughout my exploration, I had faith that there are more people concerned with and working on solving this problem, so I focused on my strengths to explore modular 3D-printed fashion,” Kock says. “Together, we are not only pushing the boundaries of 3D-printing fashion but also driving positive change within the industry.”

Balena was founded in 2020 by David Roubach. The company commercially launched its first product, the BioCir Slides shoes, in 2022. Currently, the company is working on additional BioCir materials, including BioCirx for rigid products such as buttons and sunglasses frames, and BioCirw for films used in technical textiles. The company was selected to participate in the Fashion for Good 2024 Innovation Programme.

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