The role of 3D printing in the luxury sector


The global luxury goods market is experiencing a rapid post-pandemic recovery and could reach 380 billion euros by 2025, according to a report published by the Italian foundation of luxury goods manufacturers, Fondazione Altagamma, and the consulting firm strategic Bain & Company. And in this growing market, 3D printing has a part to play. From accessories to eyewear to high fashion parts to car components, additive manufacturing has a lot to offer luxury brands.

Companies such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, Bentley and Porsche have already taken the plunge, seduced by the many advantages of 3D technologies. But why have some brands not yet embraced additive manufacturing? How can they integrate it? Today we will look at three of the fundamental pillars of the luxury industry: cars, jewelry and high fashion, to learn a little more about how luxury companies are implementing new technologies and adding value. that they get.

3D printing and luxury cars

Many luxury and sports car manufacturers tend to demand very high standards. This category of car manufacturers needs parts that are both visually striking and extremely durable. Additive manufacturing is the ideal choice to meet this challenge. It facilitates the manufacture of complex shapes and allows the weight to be reduced to a minimum by applying the material only where it is really needed. Additionally, 3D printing offers a cost-effective way to produce small volumes.

Applications of 3D technologies in the automotive sector

Among the applications of 3D printing in the automotive sector , we find the possibility of printing much more personalized components from the factory, giving the car unique performance characteristics, Bentley is one of those who have already implemented. Consumers spend thousands of dollars each year to personalize their vehicles and manufacturers can leverage additive manufacturing in this regard. Another application of 3D printing is creating hard-to-find or obsolete parts. There are more and more old car collectors and manufacturers are striving to restore and preserve certain models considered to be gems.

We also see that additive manufacturing facilitates the creation of car components. Arguably one of the best examples is the case of Divergent , a California-based high-end sports car company that manufactures ultra-lightweight chassis and has an ambitious goal to design all parts of its cars using 3D technologies. But Divergent is not alone: ​​1016 Industries has also made 3D printing available to luxury brands such as McLaren , offering optimized final parts.

Our approach for this project was to explore how we could use 3D printing in the automotive world, and the results achieved by these parts of the McLaren 720S are impressive. The 3D printing process not only allowed us to manufacture faster and more efficiently, but we also improved the quality. 3D technology has allowed each part to be manufactured with greater precision, with each part printed to scale to validate our CAD and CFD work – Peter Northrop, Founder of 1016 Industries.

Additionally, 3D technologies make it possible to provide fully functional prototypes for rigorous testing and simulation, tooling for limited edition components, and low volume custom production parts for end use in vehicles.

The most used technologies

There are several 3D printing technologies used to produce automotive parts, everything will of course depend on the final application. For example, Porsche uses laser powder bed fusion to create the pistons of the 911 GT2 RS from metal powder. British company Vital Auto, which designs luxury cars, uses SLA technology , also known as stereolithography, to produce other automotive parts such as air vents and door seals. Another of the most used technologies in this field is the FDM technology, which is used above all in the prototyping phase, since it is a fast and efficient way to physically dispose of the components before the final production.

The advantages of 3D printing in the automotive sector

3D printing dramatically shortens lead times: any part can be available in days or hours, even a complete model car, at a lower cost. In addition, 3D printing makes it possible to work with thinner sections, more customized and adapted designs, and to test different versions quickly and inexpensively. This is the case of Bugatti, which has 3D printed its monobloc eight-piston brake caliper in titanium, which allows it to save money and improve performance by reducing the weight of the part and making it more resistant.

Additive manufacturing and haute couture

Many designers and the most exclusive companies in the fashion world have opted for 3D printing technologies to manufacture all kinds of clothing: dresses, bags, shoes, etc. Today, if we take a look at some of the most important and luxurious events in the fashion industry, such as the Cannes Film Festival, the Met Gala or many fashion shows among most important in the world, it is very likely that someone is wearing 3D printed clothing.

3D printing applications in fashion

In the world of high fashion, 3D printing plays a very important role because it gives us design freedom that we could not get with conventional manufacturing methods. Thanks to 3D technologies, we can print different garments: one of them is the shoe, as in the case of the high-end shoe designer Annie Foo . By scanning the customer's foot, the designer obtains pieces totally adapted to her physiognomy while offering organic shapes. Besides designers who make custom-made clothes for each client, there are also high-end companies who have already 3D printed shoes, such as Balenciaga, which is priced around $3,250.

There are also 3D printed garments, such as those by Iris Van Herpen , whose designs transcend boundaries and in which 4.0 technologies and traditional craftsmanship are combined. Iris' visionary designs fuse pioneering techniques and luxurious materials, often evoking an avant-garde feeling.

There are also high-end 3D printing companies entirely focused on the fashion and luxury sector, such as VOJD Studios which works with and helps brands such as Kenzo, Acne Studios, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Carolina Herrera to integrate 3D printing into their collections. Other companies, like Dior, have used 3D printing to create thousands of prototypes and exact replicas of their collections to decorate their stores, such as the impressive 3D printed collection for the famous Galerie Dior in Paris.

The most used 3D printing technologies in the luxury sector

Currently, stylists and designers are looking for rather flexible materials that will recall the appearance of leather or fabric. They vary depending on the garment you want to print. In the case of rigid garments, it is possible to use different printing technologies such as SLA, LCD, DLP or SLS. The actors of the fashion world thus obtain complex designs with a lot of details, often thought for fashion shows. For more flexible garments, such as those created by Israeli designer Danit Peleg, TPE is often used. TPE is an elastomer that can be stretched to breaking point and has a high coefficient of friction, which makes it very flexible, so the results are very similar to a textile mesh. For these elastic parts, FDM is probably the most widely used technology. Finally, the process ofmaterial jet is particularly popular because it adds realism to creations and allows you to add color.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of additive manufacturing in luxury fashion?

In a cutting-edge industry like fashion, combining the latest trends with the latest 3D printing technology allows companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors. 3D printed designs are durable, more environmentally friendly and personalized. Personalization has become a key trend, present in all luxury sectors. Consumers of these products want unique clothes, imagined just for them, which explains the success of brands that offer made-to-measure products. For Danit Peleg, who uses 3D printing in his production process, the main advantages of 3D printed fashion are individuality, flexibility and durability.
Waste in production is reduced to zero. Likewise, when you tire of a garment, you simply melt it down and turn it into a new garment, says Danit Peleg.

One of the main disadvantages of 3D garments is their rigidity, which limits people's mobility. Currently, cotton and silk are much more comfortable to wear. It would be interesting to find solutions to introduce more flexible materials or explore the concept of 3D printed knitting .

3D printing and jewelry

Jewelry making, as an economic activity, dates back to ancient Egypt, 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. The jeweler has witnessed and played a leading role in successive technological innovations, century after century. But in the long history of jewelry, no technical advancement has had such an impact as additive manufacturing. It offers jewelry designers a wide range of possibilities, especially in terms of personalization, aesthetics and production speed. This is why world-renowned companies, such as Cartier or Tiffany & Co, have integrated 3D printing in different stages of the production process: from prototyping to post-processing , including lost wax processes.

How can we use 3D printing in jewelry?

3D printing is used in various ways in the jewelry industry. One of the most typical applications is prototyping. Additive manufacturing allows the jeweler and customer to visualize the piece, albeit in a different material, before creating the final piece. This helps refine the design, reduce the time needed for changes, and eliminate errors in the final design. On the other hand, we have the so-called indirect manufacturing methods. In these cases, 3D printing is used as a fast, accurate, and efficient way to produce a base model of the part. The model is then used as a positive to make a mold, which is finally used to obtain the final part by casting and solidifying the final material of the part.

Another of the processes used is that of lost wax casting, which makes it possible to produce much more complex shapes. It is a method in which molten metal replaces, by melting it, a wax model placed in a mould. Jewelers can now 3D print this model, giving them more freedom in terms of geometry. It is then possible to produce metallic accessories for perfumes, or aesthetic and technical accessories for leather goods.

The most used technologies to create 3D jewelry

If there is one additive manufacturing technology that is going to be of extraordinary importance for the jewelry sector, it is that which makes it possible to build metal objects, such as laser fusion . Other companies, such as EAC , opt for Metal Binder Jetting, which allows a higher level of quality and productivity, guaranteeing a better finish of the part. Among the most used technologies are stereolithography, prized for the level of detail offered, FDM and Polyjet technology. Stereolithography and FDM are commonly used technologies for printing prototypes in hot melt materials, which are used in the manufacture of jewelry parts by investment casting.

Advantages and disadvantages of additive manufacturing in jewelry

Thanks to additive manufacturing, jewelers can improve their efficiency and productivity in their work, because while the printer performs its function, they can devote themselves to other tasks. In addition, thanks to it, it is possible to obtain several pieces with high quality and definition of details, especially in the case of complex and complicated designs. Despite the many advantages, all is not rosy, and the acquisition of a 3D printer implies an investment in time to learn how to model, as well as in money to acquire this new technology.

With 3D, there are no limits to creativity. Additive manufacturing allows us to manufacture and duplicate any small part, print and metallize parts in series. We are able to create, polish and metallize parts of previously unthinkable complexity. Thanks to this new technology, we can respond to any type of request. Additive manufacturing allows our designers and customers to set no limits on the design of their accessories, says Patrick Chouvet, CEO of EAC.


 The future of 3D printing in luxury

As we saw earlier, the luxury market is growing and represents high value. This makes it a key target market for clothing, accessories, cars, etc. 3D printed. Customers in the luxury sector, and more particularly millennials, are increasingly seeking to express their own individuality through material goods, such as clothing or cars. This is where the real appeal of 3D printed products lies: they offer great customization and uniqueness, so designers, such as Iris van Herpen, who use additive manufacturing processes, have the ability to market their products to an increasingly affluent market.

Additionally, specific customers such as the aforementioned millennials or specific markets such as the Chinese market are always open to technological advancements and sustainable clothing. It is therefore very likely that their predisposition to purchase luxury 3D printed products is positive. However, there is still a long way to go. For example, in the fashion world, 3D printing technologies are not mature enough. Thanks to them, we obtain unique designs, but their performance is inferior to that of traditionally made garments. Will we be able to overcome this obstacle?