Knitting dates back to the 11th century, but it’s blowing up in a whole new way in the 21st.
In short, machines can knit as well as your grandma, and even go one better —now they’re tricked out with 3D modeling technology too. Basically, 3D knitting makes it possible to shape a textile to the exact frame of an object — a perfect fit with no need for sewing separate pieces of cloth together.
You may have seen 3D knitting before, via Nike’s popular Flyknit sneaker collection or through OpenKnit, which Vice called “a 3D printer for clothes.” But digital knitting is weaving its way straight into the mainstream this year, since furniture behemoth IKEA is using the newfangled technology to create 3D knit furniture.
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Yahoo Makers caught up with IKEA designer Sarah Fager to discuss IKEA’s plans for 3D flatbed knitting for the company’s PS 2017 collection. Fager designed what’s been dubbed “the see-through love seat” for the collection.
“We have been thinking of using this knitting technique for some years, but since it’s something new for us, we needed a product that could be a test pilot,” Fager told Yahoo Makers. “Our PS collection is when we can test new things and dare be brave, so the PS lounge chair was the perfect product to test this technique.”
IKEA’s 3D knitting machine can knit in any material needed, like linen, wool, cotton, or polyester, Fager added. The main costs (beyond the price of the machine itself) are just material and maintenance — so product pricing stays low, which is important for IKEA. “Other furniture dealers have a much higher price for the same technique,” Fager told us.
The chairs are just the start too. “There is no limitation where and when to use this knitting technique, but we will only use it when the benefit of making things automatized is more than handcrafting them,” Fager told us.
Which is cool, because we’d love to see knitting go way, way beyond hats and scarves. IKEA, can you knit us a table next? Or how ’bout a fridge?
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