Very interesting story, Beth. I have to wonder, though, no matter how thin this bikini is, I can't imagine you would you stay very cool in it. For $450-$500, any ideas on who this would appeal to? Do these designers see a fashion trend hitting the beaches anytime soon?
As you report, the lower price point of 3D printers is driving the technology into new consumer applications. I expect we'll see a flood of what, for want of a better phase, one could call "boutique" 3D prototyping/manufacturing. I could even imagine a small-scale retail entrepreneur setting up something like a novelty shop version of this stuff, where your 3D resin-based product is "printed" before your eyes.
I think you're on to something Alex. I just did an interview with Brian Matthews, head of Autodesk Labs, on their new technology release called Photofly, which essentially takes a series of 40 or so regular photos and via a cloud service, converts them into a 3D model (story will be posted shortly--stay tuned!). Any way, he talked a lot about that. The combination of technologies like Photofly with lower cost 3D printers and even CNC machines giving smaller manufacturers or even retail specialists an edge producing custom gear tailored for individuals--everything from hearing aids to high-fashion like the N12 bikini.
The logical next step for this particular application would be to set up a retail site where the customers body is scanned, 3D model created and custom clothes made on the spot. Control or padding could be added in certian areas. Would seem like a fashion designers dream...
I can't imagine that covering sensitive parts of one's body with hard plastic circles connected by springs would be particularly comfortable, although the website claims that it is "comfortably wearable." It also seems that the circle packing pattern, as mathematically interesting as it is, has the potential to be embarassingly revealing. (In one of the pictures, it's hard to tell, but it looks like the model might possibly be wearing something underneath the plastic, which would seem like a sensible thing to do).
I'm not exactly a fashionista; I buy most of my clothes on sale at Sears. However, there were some interesting things in the video. For one thing, it was interesting to see the circle packing algorithm at work. Also, Jenna Fizel (who developed the circle packing algorithm) made the point that modern computation actually developed out of textile production. This was something I didn't know much about, but Wikipedia was able to enlighten me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaccard_loom
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.