Protolabs and GE Additive use 3D printing technologies for Met Gala gowns
GE Additive and Protolabs have taken their additive manufacturing experience in an unexpected direction via a collaboration with fashion designer Zac Posen.
The three collaborated to construct four gowns and a headdress for showing at the Met Gala.
While the innovation does not herald the imminent arrival of consumer ready 3D-printed clothes, it does demonstrate the possibilities afforded by various materials and techniques.
Three principal additive manufacturing techniques were used in the construction of the pieces. Electron-beam melting (EBM) was used in the construction of sturdy metal frames for the dresses.
Meanwhile, as revealed by their joint press release, “the intricate printed vine headpiece with leaf and berry embellishments is printed as a single piece and made of Nylon 12 plastic and printed on a Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) machine.”
The high level of detail in this case was achieved through the powder based binder jet process, which progressively deposits a binding material on the powder to build up a structure.
Finally, resin setting stereolithography (SLA) technology was used across the items, allowing large segments to be printed in one piece.
The interplay of different technologies necessary to fulfill the design requirements of wearable clothes mirrors the collaboration of the three entities involved, the surprising nature of which they were keen to highlight: “What might seem like an unlikely collaboration of design engineers and Zac Posen - one of the fashion industry's leading lights, at the forefront of innovation - in fact makes complete sense when you consider the transformative impact 3D printing is having on our everyday lives,” the press release states.
Brian Peters, Protolabs’ chief marketing officer, detailed the individual roles of the collaborators, saying that GE Additive was instrumental in designing the CAD files, while Protolabs used “a lot of GE equipment and we have the expertise and design capabilities to actually produce the various items that you’ll see in these dresses and pieces.”
The production of these items demonstrates not just the capability of the technologies GE Additive and Protolabs possess, but also the future possibilities on offer when they are deployed in collaboration.
IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery
After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022.
Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery.
Lingering Concerns Over COVID
Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high.
Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery?
IMF: Current Boom Could Falter
Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”.
Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”.
Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.