Eco-friendly 3D printing: sustainable luxury handbags enabled with AM –

When it comes to 3D printed fashion, I love it as much as I’m skeptical of it. A lot of the 3D printed clothing I see, while beautiful and unique, just doesn’t look comfortable or wearable, although not all 3D printed clothing does. But I think fashion accessories like handbags and the like are a fantastic use case of 3D printing with staying power, which is why I was so excited to hear that the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), no stranger to 3D printing, is using the technology to create more durable accessories for the track.

The research center is run by the University of Strathclyde and has teamed up with Scottish luxury eco-fashion brand ROCIO to reinvent its signature handbag. The brand is well known for these decorative bags, and celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Kate Upton have been photographed wearing them.

Miya Matte handbag from the Classic line by ROCIO; not 3D printed.

Traditionally, handbags are individually carved in a lengthy 19-step process from harvested acacia wood, and ROCIO was looking for a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to make them. The brand wanted to learn more about 3D printing, which would be more sustainable than most conventional forms of manufacturing; Additionally, it allows for greater customization, less waste, and the production of complex shapes and structures that most manufacturing methods cannot achieve. This is how the R&D project and the partnership with NMIS began.

“One of the main objectives of NMIS is to engage with and support SMEs to facilitate a positive impact on the local economy and wider industry. We have a team dedicated to helping SMEs on their journey to innovate and exploit new goods and services in response to industry needs,” said Andrew Brawley, NMIS Research and Design Engineer.

“The collaboration with ROCIO is a great example of this and we hope this will be the start of a long-standing relationship of trust with the ROCIO team, as this new exploration showcases the endless possibilities available.”

In order to develop the handbag’s internal structure so that it could be used as a base for more luxurious fabric coverings, ROCIO combined NMIS’ technological expertise with its own artisanal capabilities. The collaboration was funded by the AM-BATS (Additive Manufacturing Business and Technology Support) project of the Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund, itself partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Structural Funds 2014-2020 programme.

By working with NMIS to utilize 3D printing in its design process and workflow, ROCIO was able to experiment with different design constructions and materials. Additionally, the brand should have an easier time expanding its operations to meet growing customer demand using 3D printing as well. The partners created a 3D printed prototype of the handbag, which has the same type of structure as ROCIO’s original wooden bags; this allowed the brand to retain its original silhouette and aesthetic.

Atelier, a fashion business school and fash-tech startup accelerator in Spain, took the 3D printed prototype and turned it into a fully structured leather handbag, which was a first for ROCIO.

“We are really surprised by the results. We are at the heart of sustainable fashion and are proud that each accessory is a unique creative masterpiece. The pieces produced are works of art and this unique leather handbag concept offers exceptional beauty in a structured art form which I believe pushes the boundaries of design,” said Hamish Menzies, Creative Director of ROCIO.

“For us, exploring the use of a 3D printed prototype is more efficient in terms of cost, time and material in the long run. Through the use of this technology, we are one step closer to improving our efforts to be even more sustainable, while unleashing and embracing the future capabilities of our industry.”

The new ROCIO handbag is set to debut at Paris Fashion Week in March…all thanks to 3D printing!

Leather coated ROCIO bag with 3D printed prototype.

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