3d printing on fabric

Some folks at my makerspace have been passing around this link  showing a maker who figured out a fun way to 3d print onto fabric.  His technique is to use a meshed fabric, lay down his first layer, then insert the fabric and resume printing the rest of the print.  I had to figure out how to do this myself, so here is me reinventing the wheel.


I’ve tried printing on regular fabric before and, while it works, the print never penetrates the fabric enough to stick. The first thing the folks above figured out was that you need a mesh type fabric. So I went to Joann’s, got felt up by an old lady (for real, it was weird) and got out of there with 5 different sizes and materials worth of mesh.

The next step was to figure out the gcode to let me pause the print, move the hotend out of the way, insert the fabric and then restart with an offset for the fabric thickness.

If you run Simplify3d, this post-processing script does the trick

{STRIP "; postProcessing,"}

{REPLACE "; layer 2," "G91 \nG1 E-10 F1800 \nG1 Z50 \nM0 Click to Resume \nG1 Z-49.2 \nG1 E10 F1800 \nG90 \n; layer 2,"}

That breaks down to

  • At the start of Layer 2
  • G91 ; calculate movements relative to the current position
  • G1 E-10 F1800 ; retract the filament 10mm
  • G1 Z50 ; Raise the nozzle 50 mm
  • M0 Click to Resume ; Pause the print
  • (this is where you insert the fabric)
  • G1 Z-49.2 l ; Drop the nozzle back down minus a bit for the fabric thickness
  • G1 E10 F1800 ; extrude 10mm of filament
  • G90 ; Go back to absolute movements

I only raise the  hotend instead of moving it around just to keep things simple.  Once the hotend is up and the print is paused, I lay in the fabric and use magnets to hold it to the bed nice and tight. This is pretty important because the fabric will want to catch on the hotend, so hold it tight and for gods sake don’t walk away when you unpause.

Now I just let the print finish up like normal.

The three main types of mesh I tried are a cotton medium mesh like for a skirt, a very tight polyester mesh (the blue one) that I have no idea what people use for and a very large polyester mesh that I guess you would make laundry bags or something out of? I’m very out of my element here.

The gray hexagons on the pink cotton worked pretty ok. no real complaints outside of the prints don’t stick where there is a pattern, so plan around that.  The Blue mesh (green hexagons) worked the best. The fabric was strong but still had enough space in it to allow the filament to pull through into the previous layer.  The large mesh printed the easiest, no catching on the hotend at all, but the mesh itself is super weak and prone to tearing.

So TLDR, you can do this and it’s kinda neat.  Now to figure out a use.