Build Volumes & Speed
3D printer build volumes and speeds are somewhat limited when compared to industrial mass manufacturing equipment. If designers wish to produce clothing at scale then higher throughput machines will have to be found. At the moment 3D printed fashion items are not custom made for one individual. It is through this that 3D printing can add real value to clothing. If 3D printers can in an automated way make unique clothing items inexpensively that can fit then the technology could be used widely in fashion.
At the moment this is far from the case however. The material cost in 3D printing is still too high. This, and low throughput from machines, means that individual clothing items are too costly to find mass adoption at the moment. The process will have to be industrialized for fashion in order for it to make sense for this application. New software tools will have to be developed in order to make it possible to correctly produce the perfect garment for each individual.
Another issue is with some of the surface textures of the materials. Powder bed fusion materials have a powdery feel on their surfaces. Even if parts are tumbled to smooth them they are often slightly too abrasive to wear directly on the skin. This coupled with the high price of materials and insufficient flexibility is a hurdle that needs to be overcome.
Not yet a Textile
We are not currently able to 3D print materials with the same durability and flexibility as well as softness of a textile. Flexible materials such as the polyjet materials are not yet durable enough to be used in everyday wearable clothing. Other flexible materials such as TPU/TPE for material extrusion systems are durable and tough enough for clothing. These however usually have a surface quality that does not make them attractive enough to make clothing items. New materials and new surface finishes will have to be developed in order for 3D printed fashion to advance.