“We present a new type of 3D printer that can form precise, but soft and deformable 3D objects from layers of off-the-shelf fabric. Our printer employs an approach where a sheet of fabric forms each layer of a 3D object. The printer cuts this sheet along the 2D contour of the layer using a laser cutter and then bonds it to previously printed layers using a heat sensitive adhesive”, says Disney Research in their blog.
This 3D printer works with the same methods as other printers, but instead of plastic it uses fabric as its main building material. Currently the toys look a bit rough and are basically just shapes of stuffed animals. But there is big promise in this field.
The fabrics are placed on top of each other, layer by layer, and are trimmed by a laser cutter, then stuck to the layer below using heated glue. When the product is finished, it basically just looks like a cube, and the extra fabric can then be peeled away to reveal a detailed object inside. Researchers were able to use the technology to create a starfish toy that also functioned as a computer touch sensor, and even a smartphone case that was NFC-capable.
While it is still far off, imagine that some day in the future you will be able to simply download a file and then print it and voila, now you have your onw soft and cuddly toy. People will also be able to create the needed drawings and schematics to turn their own ideas into reality.
Currenlty Disney is not setting any timeframes on when this new 3D printer will be fully ready and if ever it will be available to the general public. But even if they start to make some of their toys with it, it will still mean a lot more possibilities in the world of stuffed animals.
Also, here is a video of the project, that is worth checking out.