This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Disruption in Digital Fabrication: Exploring FDM 3D Printing and 3D CAD for a Wearable Apparel Product




Cui, Tianyu

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Consumer and Design Sciences


Three-dimensional printing (3D printing) technology has been applied in several fields due to its advantages of customization, complex shape manipulation, and energy and material sustainability. Apparel designers and researchers are seeking ways to take advantages of 3D printing for wearable apparel product designs. However, there is limited previous systematic research focusing on this area. Existing 3D printed wearable apparel product designs provide limited information regarding detailed design processes and material properties, which makes it difficult for future designers and researchers to gain knowledge of and promote 3D printed wearable apparel products within their own designs. This research aimed to provide more insights for the research gap by exploring the design process and user perceptions for a 3D printed wearable apparel product through two studies. Study 1 adopted a qualitative research through design (RTD) method to provide detailed 3D computer-aided-design (3D CAD) workflow and create different variations of 3D printed structures for property evaluations. During Study 1 (RTD), a 3D printed hooded sweatshirt was prototyped as the research outcome for evaluation. Study 2 employed quantitative research about design (RAD) method to examine users’ perceptions of the 3D printed hooded sweatshirt. Results from Study 1 confirmed the viability of employing the Rhino 3D CAD program and a FDM 3D printer to create five different variations of 3D printed structures. The five variations of 3D printed structures provided different levels of properties in terms of softness, flexibility, cushioning, durability, etc. Four of the variations were sewn with traditional fabrics for property evaluations. Results also indicated that experience and knowledge gained from initial steps could optimize and enhance efficiency for subsequent design processes. The developed 3D printed structures provided several properties like stretchability, cushioning and durability, and could be sewed with traditional fabrics to form 3D printed wearable apparel products. Results from Study 2 generally supported the idea that the Functional, Expressive and Aesthetic Consumer Needs Model (FEA model) could be applied to 3D printed wearable apparel products to predict users’ satisfaction. Aesthetic perceptions played the most influential role in user satisfaction and purchase intentions, followed by the influence of expressive and functional perceptions. The results indicate the importance of aesthetic aspects of 3D printed wearable apparel products in users’ adoption of these products. This research provides several theoretical and managerial implications for future explorations of 3D printed wearable apparel products.