Researchers invent felting 3D printer that can “print” soft objects

Researchers invent felting 3D printer that can “print” soft objectsA team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh has invented a felting 3D printer which is capable of making soft objects - like stuffed toys - out of wool and wool blends.

The felting 3D printer created by the researchers is a cross between a 3D printer and a sewing machine, both in looks as well as in operation. The printer works in such a way that when an object has been designed with the help of 3D modelling software, a layer of felt is placed on the print bed. Thereafter, wool yarn is threaded through a needle which is attached to the print head. The 'needle felting' technique essentially binds the fabric together.

The objects created by the felting 3D printer resemble items which have been hand-made and felted. As such, the wool yarn fibers used by the felting 3D printer helps "print" teddy bears as well as other soft and cuddly items.

Despite the fact that 3D printing technology has largely been used on solid objects thus far, the latest invention by the researchers underscores the potential expansion of 3D printing into the 'soft objects' arena.

Noting that "a number of researchers are looking at mixed materials in 3D printing," Carnegie Mellon professor Scott Hudson said: "We're really extending the set of materials available for 3D printing and opening up new possibilities for what can be manufactured."