Yarn-Weaving Printer Creates Custom Clothes

April 11, 2014

With 3D printing taking much of the DIY spotlight recently, many hackers and enthusiasts have been trying to put their own spin on the additive manufacturing process.

For example, just recently the MX3D Metal robot was unveiled, which can create metal structures on any surface through an additive manufacturing process. Now, Gerard Rubio, a hacker from Barcelona, has unveiled an open-source project known as OpenKnit.

OpenKnit is a digital fabrication tool that will allow a user to create their own clothing through an additive process. Just as a 3D printer prints one layer of filament at a time, the OpenKnit machine will slowly build one layer of fabric at a time. Using a spool of yarn as the raw material, OpenKnit can create items such as scarfs, hats, shirts, and sweaters in about one hour. The machine itself has a large frame made from a type of aluminum extrusion. Then there is an array of needles at the top that work together with a stepper and servomotor to accomplish the knitting technique. Additionally, an Arduino Leonardo is used to control the whole system.

Since the entire project is open-source, the source code along with the bill of materials and instructions to help users build one is available online at Github. Purchasing all the parts will cost around $750 and assembling the machine should take less than a full day of work.

The machine currently has three thread guides, which allow a maximum of three different colors to be used in one article of clothing. Adding more thread guides for additional colors is an area for future improvement. Additionally, there are some parts of the knitting process that require human intervention, so the machine is not yet fully automatic. Therefore, eliminating the need for any human interaction to complete the final product can potentially be a big next step.

So far, OpenKnit has received a lot of attention from people all over the world. Although the machine does not produce a product with professional quality, many people see the potential for such a project and the enjoyment in creating their own clothes. Furthermore, doknityourself.com allows users to upload and share all of their clothing created through their own OpenKnit machine.

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