Additive Manufacturing for Coating of Textiles
Lynxter is a manufacturer of 3D printers and an expert in additive manufacturing, using, among others, ViscoTec 3D printheads. The 3D printing company, located in Bayonne, France, designs, constructs, and builds modular industrial machine tools. In a textile printing project, the advantages of the precision ViscoTec print heads were perfectly exploited.
Talking to Lynxter, we learn more about the “textile printing” application, which goal it was to test, innovate and inspire:
- How did you get the idea to print textiles?
Lynxter: Although 3D printing has been part of the textile sector for some time now, we found that the materials used (Thermoplastics) generally don’t offer the flexibility, texture and elasticity to adapt to the characteristics of fabric. Also, the wear resistance of the materials was unsatisfactory. All these influencing factors were the main reasons for analyzing the behavior of silicone on textiles. Silicone as a 3D printing material was chosen for its soft and elastic properties. In addition, the polymer offers excellent resistance to chemicals and UV rays and adheres perfectly to the fabric. Our additive manufacturing machine allows the application of liquids, including silicone, enabling our team to master the technical aspects of this process.
With this idea, we want to inspire designers in search of innovation. We also seek to provide customization solutions to companies wishing to meet the challenge of product uniqueness. Finally, we hope to contribute to optimizing technical textile functions.
Our clients in the luxury goods, medical equipment and sportswear industries have also recognized the potential of such innovative applications and have approached us with new product ideas.
- With which products did you realize the printing?
Lynxter: Our printer, the S600D, has a modular structure. This means that it is possible to print a wide range of materials in the form of filaments, liquids and pastes on the same machine just by changing the tool head. In this project, we used the print head vipro-HEAD 3 from ViscoTec.
We performed tests on several types of fabrics including cottons and polyesters. We also tested different patterns with various thicknesses and levels of complexity by playing with the thickness and width of the strings, extrusion speeds and impregnation, with different types of silicones (standard and custom-made).
- What were your requirements for the print head?
Lynxter: In order to integrate a new print head on the system, we propose a development kit providing information on electrical connectivity, liquid cooling, and mechanical constraints. We were looking for a compact head with limited mass to optimize working speeds and which embeds electrical components in phase with the standard control boards of additive manufacturing. Next, the range of compatible flow rates and viscosities was essential to position the print head on a versatile solution. Finally, the choice of materials in contact with the printing fluid also determines the field of compatible materials.
- Why did you decide to use the ViscoTec print head?
Lynxter: The ViproHead range fulfills many of the factors mentioned above. Experience and manufacturing quality have tipped the balance in favour of ViscoTec. Following a test phase, we have achieved very favourable results that have led to a highly successful collaboration.
- How does the printing on the textile work? Please describe the application. What is special about it?
Lynxter: The material used for printing is a one-component RTV silicone with a shore hardness of 34. We chose this material because its characteristics meet the constraints of use and maintenance of textiles: elasticity (high elongation rate), heat resistance, and resistance to moisture and chemicals.
Once the printing project has been defined, the machine deposits silicone beads on the fabric to create a 3D pattern. Printing and drying times will vary depending on the size and complexity of the project.
This technology can be used for all branding and personalization projects on fabric. This application is ideal for a wide range of industry players using textiles: fashion, haute couture, sports equipment, furniture and health products, etc.
- What is the printing result?
Lynxter: We quickly and precisely create a 3-dimensional pattern on the fabric. The printing integrates perfectly with the type of textile, e.g. comfort, fluidity, elasticity. This ensures that the garment is pleasant to wear after the process. The aesthetic result is highly satisfactory. Following the various wear tests carried out, the silicone held well on the fabric when in use and showed good stability during washing.
Even when it was first published at formnext 2019, interest in textile printing was already high among companies from a wide range of industries. Interesting projects will be further developed and implemented in the coming months. We are still only just discovering the potential of this technology, but the feedback from the field is already very positive.
Excerpt from a video by Lynxter:
- What are the advantages for the user with this solution?
Lynxter: 3D printing of silicone makes it possible to meet the growing demand for product customization from consumers looking for uniqueness. This solution also gives the freedom to create patterns with complex 3-dimensional shapes or different layer heights, which are impossible to achieve with traditional processes. It offers greater possibilities for designing custom-made patterns, as well as a wide choice of positioning patterns on the fabric which were not always accessible with other processes. The user will be able to work more creatively, and the silicone’s characteristics ensure the expected comfort of a garment.
Furthermore, this process is a real asset for companies since it can be integrated within the workplace where the products are made, thus limiting travel and intermediaries, while optimizing the production process. In turn, this innovation moderates the environmental impact of production. In economic terms, it reduces the margins linked to intermediaries and constitutes a gain in reaction time and efficiency for companies.
- What do you like most when working with ViscoTec?
Lynxter: The quality and performance. It is essential for a manufacturer like Lynxter to integrate reliable, robust and accurate components. ViscoTec has assured us of this with every delivery. We also appreciate the close contact with their local and head office teams with whom we work hand in hand.
Lynxter focuses on outstanding innovation projects. Always with the aim of dedicating know-how and technological solutions to the most ambitious projects, making them smarter. The team sees 3D printing as a real production tool. And has created a complete and efficient industry-oriented 4.0 ecosystem: Extremely versatile machines operated by a network of expert developers. Together with ViscoTec’s print heads, this results in a technology that promises to deliver many exciting new applications in the future. On the YouTube channel of Lynxter you can find more information: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgcTQcaHGZZ7LZs6gxDPzGQ