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MorphFabric

Exploring customizable 2.5D textile by heating
a bi-layer structure of 3d printed material on the pre-stretched fabric 

By Rosalie Lin

Advisor: Zach Zeibold, Teaching Assistant: Erin Hunt

By leveraging the shape-changing concept of a bi-layer structure that is constructed of two materials with different contraction ratios, this research focuses on 3d printing Polylactic Acid (PLA) on a pre-stretched elastic fabric as its initial ‘flat’’ state. The fabric is able to morph to its ‘contracted’ state when applied heat. This project takes one step toward addressing this problem by exploring the most efficient way to get an ‘ideal arc’, which can be used at different scales to tailor certain parts of the garment or textile to form a dome, donut-like geometry, or smocking patterns. By defining the performance of a single arc unit, it can then be scaled up to a dome, donut geometry or smocking patterns, which could add a variety of 2.5D textures to garments or textiles. This research aims to develop a customizable fabric to engage end-users to design and fabricate their textile or garment using simple tools at home.

Linear Contraction, an Ideal Arc

Starting from experimenting with linear contraction behaviors, four parameters are tested: length, layer thickness, line count, and interval. The most basic parameter is the length. Length matters a lot when it comes to achieving an ideal ‘arc’. Through the experiment, 30-40mm turn out to perform properly. If the length goes longer, it can start forming a ‘wavy curve’, which is not preferable since it is hard to be defined as a single unit behavior. The second parameter is the layer thickness. The result shows that the greater thickness can transform the fabric more significantly than less thickness. The thickness under 0.3mm cannot well deform the fabric to an arc shape due to the weak contraction force, whereas the thickness that is above 0.3mm, it performs similarly well. The third and the fourth parameters are the number of lines within one ‘block’ and the spacing in between. The reason for incrementing  the number of lines is to expand single line behavior to an aggregated block and the spacing in between lines is for defining the density within a block. More discovery will be described in the later smocking patterns session.

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Radial distribution, a donut-like geometry

For the next step, this project takes the predefined linear arc a step further to test out different patterns distribution. Among them, the radial distribution generates a slightly more interesting result, a donut-like geometry. The research then starts looking into more parameters to tune such geometry, including the density of line distribution, the length of the lines, and the offset distance to the center.

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Smocking pattern, using 'block' as unit

Based on previous linear contraction behavior, a ‘block’ containing multiple lines has a much stronger contraction force to gather fabric, in which it forms a ‘tube’ rather than an arc. By distributing the blocks to scattered grid patterns, the fabric can be transformed into smocking patterns after applied heat as those typical ones by stitching. To form an ideal ‘tube’, the minimum length of printed PLA is still 30mm. The density of the block also affects the hold ability. The density under line counts of 5 is not able to perform an ideal smocking effect due to the weak contraction force, while line counts of 9 can achieve a more consistent curled shape. By playing with the distribution of the blocks, many more smocking patterns can be explored.

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Smocking pattern, using 'line' as unit

Another approach is using the line as a smocking unit. Although it cannot contract the fabric as much as a block unit, a grid of arcs can also form interesting smocking patterns. By tuning the density of the distribution of lines, a variety of smocking effects could be formed. To leave more space for the fabric to morph into smocking patterns, lower density distribution is preferable. 

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Double layers create pocket

After many iterations of the smocking effect, this project takes a step forward to look into a double-layer fabric, with one side having printed PLA, one without. The goal of this experiment is to see whether one side with activated material could deform the one without, or even forming a symmetrical shape. The result shows that the side without printed PLA can slightly be transformed, which opens up another possibility for exploring double-side smocking patterns.

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3D-projected shadow

After many iterations of the smocking effect, this project takes a step forward to look into a double-layer fabric, with one side having printed PLA, one without. The goal of this experiment is to see whether one side with activated material could deform the one without, or even forming a symmetrical shape. The result shows that the side without printed PLA can slightly be transformed, which opens up another possibility for exploring double-side smocking patterns.

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