About the Open Structures project

Open Structures is one of a series of experimental design projects that have been undertaken within the scope of the PhD thesis Textile Influence: exploring the relationship between textiles and products in the design process. These projects – and the thesis as a whole – explore and describe how textile materials take part in and influence the product design process when designing textile products, but also how potential future uses in products influence the textile design process. The research also deals with how new textile technology such as smart textiles and 3D printed textiles can come to influence how we design textile products, and how we design textiles for products. This relates to, for example, exploring how the increased transformability that comes with these new types of textiles can open up for new ways of interacting with textiles in the design process.(For more information see the Publications section).

Background to the project
Textile materials, such as woven and knitted materials, are quite open and transformable in terms of their design. Thanks to their soft, pliable properties, their appearance and physical properties can be altered by e.g. folding, cutting, or printing on the fabric. This means that textiles, when they are placed in the hands of someone else (e.g. product or fashion designers), can be used as they originally were designed, but can also easily be changed or adapted to the requirements of the product that they are to become part of. In the emerging field of textiles produced using 3D modelling and additive manufacturing, structures can be defined in detail and, later, altered or completely redesigned in CAD programs. However, the designs of these textiles are generally fixed when the structures emerge from the 3D printer. The Open Structures project is inspired by the open quality of conventional textile materials and the transformability of 3D CAD-modelled textiles, and aims to find ways of introducing some of this openness into 3D printed textile structures. Version A and Version B are the first two examples of what form this type of alterable textile can take.

The project also explores what it means to design this type of textile, for example by looking at how the textile designer defines the original design, but also sets limitations within which the textile can be developed; doing so expands the textile designer’s task, from the design of a static material to that of a system that can enable a wide range of different versions of the same textile. In addition to developing the Open Structures textiles further, future work will deal with what the extended transformability of 3D printed textiles can mean for other design processes, e.g. by creating and observing workshops in which designers work hands-on with these structures.


Images from the development process.

Versions A & B: Two examples of alterable 3D printed textiles
So far, the results of the project are two examples of elastic 3D printed textile structures that can be re-designed. The openness of the original design of both Versions makes it possible for other designers working with the textiles to develop the design quite freely, testing different options in the same piece while still making definite decisions about the final design by replacing, removing, or adding components. The structures can, for example, be made more rigid by adding stiff elements, or become more colourful or more sculpted by adding other nodes and links that afford such qualities.

The textiles in Versions A and Version B can both be altered, although they differ in the way they can be transformed. This is determined by the construction of the original designs, as well as the design of the additional components that are provided with the textiles in order to transform them. Together, this ‘textile system’ defines in which directions the textiles can be developed, which parts of the overall structure allow for alterations, and which areas or individual elements remain fixed.