Massachusetts design studio Nervous System has revealed a dress made from 1,600 rigid pieces of nylon fabricated using a technique referred to as 4D printing (+ movie).
The garment consists of small, rounded pieces whose shapes were inspired by petals, feathers and scales.
The pieces are attached to a framework of tessellated triangular panels that connect with moving joints. Each interlocking panel is rigid, but together they behave as a continuous textile.
"While the design is composed of more than 1,600 unique pieces interconnected by more than 2,600 hinges, it emerges from the 3D printer fully assembled and ready to wear," said the studio.
To make this possible, the studio employed a process that it refers to as 4D printing, which enables a large garment with articulated joints to be printed as a single object and to change shape once removed from the printer.
Prior to fabrication, the studio uses bespoke computer software to compress the overall shape of the garment into smaller forms before sending it to the printer.
"After printing, the dress can be unrolled into a wearable garment larger than the machine that printed it," the studio said, noting that this process is more efficient than printing multiple pieces and then manually assembling them.
Video showing the movement of the dress
Made of durable nylon, the dress was 3D printed via selective laser sintering – an additive manufacturing technique in which a laser is used to convert powdered material into a solid or porous mass.
The Petals Dress marks the latest in the studio's Kinematics series of custom-fit, 3D-printed clothing and accessories.
"Like our previous garments, this dress can be customised to the wearer's body through a 3D scan, and additionally, each element is now individually customisable, varying in direction, length and shape," said the studio.
Nervous System was founded in 2007 by designers Jessica Rosenkranz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg. Beyond clothing and accessories, their line of 3D-printed products includes lighting fixtures, housewares and puzzles.
Last year, the studio partnered with shoe company New Balance to develop a 3D-printed midsole that can be customised to suit a runner's individual pace.
In 2014, New York's Museum of Modern Art acquired one of the studio's 4D-printed dresses, along with accompanying software, for its permanent collection.