Can 3D Printers Print On Fabric?


If you don’t have a 3D printer and are trying to find out if you can print onto fabric using someone else’s printer, then we’re sorry to say that you’re out of luck.

Inkjet printers can print onto fabric but not in a way that we would call 3D printing.

After reading this article, you will find that it is possible to succeed with fabric and a 3D printer. However, the results are patchy at best. 

How Does 3D Printer Printing On Fabric Work?

A 3D printer is a type of machine that can create three-dimensional objects from computer-aided design (CAD) files.

3D printing has been used to produce many household items, including toys, jewelry, and even clothes. Several companies have recently experimented with printing fabrics using 3D printers.

However, it’s not clear if this technology will be able to print on fabrics like cotton or linen in the same way that they are printed on other materials such as plastic or metal.

Step 1. Load CAD file onto your computer

You’ll need to download a CAD file that you can use to create an object on your home computer before loading it into the printer software. This could be a simple shape drawn on paper or even an image downloaded from the internet. Some 3D printer software allows you to create your own designs from scratch using special modeling tools.

Step 2. Print the object in 3-dimensional layers

The printer creates three-dimensional objects by printing out layer after layer of plastic, metal, or other material used as the build material. The printer draws the object’s shape as a series of horizontal stripes on a long piece of fabric paper that is put in the machine. Then, it passes over this material several times, using ultraviolet light or another heating source to bond each layer together. Solid forms are created by printing these layers horizontally on top of one another while making the layers of paper thinner and thinner until the object takes its final three-dimensional form.

Step 3. Clean up the printed fabric

The printer will then let you know when it is finished creating your design. You’ll need to remove your design from the base sheet to clean up any material that got stuck on it while printing. To do this, place your design in a heated oven set to between 200°C and 250°C (392°F – 482°F) for two to three minutes. Using a spatula or other tool will soften the materials to be scraped off the paper base layer.

Step 4. Transfer the 3D design onto a clothing material

Once your design is printed, you can use it to create a new article of clothing. Cut or fold the design so that all the fabric layers are on one side. You will have to decide whether you want to cut out a flat shape or make an enclosed 3d structure with no openings. Heat at 140°C – 160°C (284°F – 320°F) to seal the layers together and create a smooth, sturdy piece of fabric.

Step 5. Add any additional details with sewing or embroidery

To add buttons, zippers, or other small accessories, you’ll need to find a way to seal off the edges of your design so that no air escapes and your object doesn’t fall apart. You can do it by wrapping the seams with clear tape or adding a lining material to make them stronger. You could also use thread and needle to sew an additional decoration on top of this seam to hold it shut.

Step 6. Wear your 3D print design

Now you’ll have an article of clothing that has been printed with fabric from the 3D printer. You can wear it alone or layer it underneath other clothing as an undergarment in cold weather.


What Are The Advantages of 3D Printers Printing On Fabric?

  • The majority of the 3D pen prints come in a variety of colors.
  • Printing on fabric is mainly designed for decorative purposes, but some printers offer practical functions like changing the textures.
  • 3D printing on fabrics can offer some potential functionalities for various industries and hobbyists to use, from art projects to clothing design.
  • Fashion designers may wish to experiment with 3D printers because it’s easier and faster to print their own samples or even entire collections as clothes get more complicated.
  • Designers have been using custom filament spools by printing the fabrics they will make garments out of. They offer a higher quality than traditional machines or sewing methods while giving much greater customization options that other methods can’t provide.

What Are The Downsides of 3D Printers Printing On Fabric?

  • Some fabric fibers pull away from the heated plastic, causing the item to become discolored.
  • The ink used may stick to other fabrics and can transfer to other objects if not washed off immediately after use.
  • It is difficult or impossible for 3D printers to account for drape or stretch. If these properties are unwanted on an item, designers will likely be undesired by using digital tools.
  • More complicated elements of designs like pleats, gathers, and double ikat prints, which require a lot of attention by workers in the garment industry, may not render well due to limitations in computer-aided design (CAD) software programs currently available. These are common elements in garments made in developing countries where 3D printing can be especially beneficial due to lower labor costs.
  • Due to limitations in 3D printer resolution, some fabrics may not print well. The exact properties of the material used are important as well. Garments made with meager thread count or single knit fabrics will likely require a different printer nozzle or higher layer thicknesses (more plastic per layer). This comes with a few setbacks caused by the printer’s ability to maintain a small enough layer height.
  • The cost of printing on fabrics is still very high compared to the garment industry in general, so it may be difficult for printers and designers alike to get large-scale economies of scale.

What Are The Best Fabrics for 3D Printing?

Since all 3D printers lay down material layer-by-layer, the fabric isn’t a suitable medium for printing complex hollow forms. The structure formed by most textiles and clothing would warp as it is printed depending on the support method used when printing. The fabrics’ thickness makes it difficult for a 3D printer to maintain consistent printing as the nozzle is positioned at different parts. There’s also an issue with curling that arises from this thickness when moving from one printed layer to another and using support structures.

Some promising fabrics for 3D printing are Nylon and PLA

  • Nylon is an excellent choice for 3D printing since it doesn’t warp or shrink, and you can get a smooth surface finish on your print if you lay down thin layers. Nylon can be used in flexible applications, too. It has some limitations due to its brittle nature, so this may not be the best material depending on your design. It’s also expensive.
  • PLA is biodegradable and can be used in various materials (from rigid to flexible). It’s also a great material for beginners since it’s cheaper and won’t warp. However, the printing speed is slower than some other options, so you may need to make your design more simple.

Most 3D printers work by laying down thin layers of plastic, but on some fabrics, this would actually coat or embed the fabric in plastic. The flat surface of the current 3D printers means that anything with texture (fabric, rough material) will print as an uneven texture.

To print on fabrics, you can use a particular printer like Mcor's IRIS 3D, and if your printer supports multiple materials, this could be a cheap method!

The only way to get a smooth textile surface is to use cotton thread and sew the fabric together after printing. Another skilled method that is currently not possible with home printers would be to take a paper pattern of your design and have it sewn by hand or machined in another material.


Can Cotton Be 3D Printed?

Yes – Cotton is one of the more easily printed fabrics.

You may use cotton to make various products like lampshades, bowls, and even low-cost medical accessories. 3D printable cotton is usually made by combining cellulose and graphene oxide (a unique material that enhances the properties of the products). The resulting fabric is stronger than cotton but also more suitable for 3D printing.

It has good elastic properties and does not affect body temperature, making it an excellent material for activewear. Cotton is completely biodegradable and can be used as a food packaging material.

You may use 3D printing to create a more sophisticated version of some of the most common clothing items: clothes/dresses, shopping bags, bathrobes, backpacks, scarves, and even swimming or running gear (like shoes).

Cotton can be printed directly on a 3D printer but will take a long time since the filament is fragile. Due to its elastic nature, cotton can be printed on a knitting machine by wrapping it around something (like a reel).

Can Polyester Be 3D Printed?

The answer to this question is no.

Fabricated polyester is not the same class as fabrics like nylon or spandex (Lycra), which can be printed on with 3D printers. Polyester fabric is woven and is more similar to a strong mesh such as fishing netting than other cloth forms.


In this article, we have discussed whether inkjet printers can print onto fabric but not in a way that we would call 3D printing.

It is worth noting the difference between inkjet printing on fabrics or using other technologies to create designs that are then cut out of sheets, like laser cutting machines. This technology typically creates intricate patterns rather than solid shapes, as with standard embroidery techniques.

The final result may be considered “3D” because multiple layers are involved (in contrast to a flat design). However, the process used for these prints does not produce an object with thickness from top-to-bottom. They only have height instead.

Print On Demand World Staff

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