As I learned a few months ago, creating custom T-shirts is a somewhat-complicated, but often quite useful way of promoting a product or raising money for an endeavor. That’s in part because it’s something that can’t effectively be done in the comfort of one’s home.
Screen-printing is a complicated process, embroidery moreso. You generally need specialized equipment, and the result of doing it at home is usually obvious—you can tell when a shirt was the product of an iron-on design.
But something I spotted the other night suggests we’re about to see things turn a corner, and it’s thanks to everyone’s favorite technology teetering on the edge of a larger breakthrough, 3D printing.
(Side note on 3D printing: Did you know that most copy editors prefer “3-D” because the terminology refers to “three-dimensional”? And that “3-D-printed” looks really awkward? I digress.)
Here’s the deal: Talented YouTube creator Simon Sörensen, aka RCLifeOn, came up with a way to print his own T-shirt designs with a 3D printer, some printing filament, and a lot of experimenting.
Sörensen, whose Adobe Illustrator skills leave something to be desired, nonetheless was able to use the software to create his own SVG files for use in printing his designs, which are generally akin to vector-based outlines.
The hard part, however, was finding the right balance for printing his materials.
“I hear you loud and clear—that’s not going to last a second in the washer,” Sörensen explained in his first clip highlighting the idea, a point he immediately proved by putting it in the washer and watching the filament fall right off.
But he’s continued to work at it, and in his most recent clip, he actually managed to run a shirt in the dryer. The secret comes down to the filament—he switched to the NinjaFlex printing filament and has found a material strong enough to last multiple washes while staying attached to the shirt—though he’ll have to spend some time putting it to the test in the long run.
Now, it’s not perfect—the shirt designs, being heavier plastic, are likely to weigh more than your standard screen-prints, 3D printer filament isn’t cheap, and it’s not like you’re going to print a photo with this method. But still, though—this feels like the start of a killer application for 3D printing, even if the 3D part is somewhat muted.
On the other hand, there is a lot of value to those tried-and-true methods. Everything in moderation, of course.