3D Printed Loom

August 6, 2017 ProgressTH We've designed and built a 3D printed rigid heddle loom. It is a tool used by hobbyists for weaving yarn into fabric and is a great way to understand the basic principles behind how more complex looms work and learn the craft of weaving itself.

It is the first step toward an automated tabletop loom aimed at enhancing localized textile production.

This 3D printed rigid heddle loom is the first step toward making textile production more accessible. Work on perfecting the current loom design, producing accessories such as loom shuttles and reed hooks, and development of an automated tabletop loom will follow.  
The loom is about half a meter by half a meter in dimensions allowing you to weave patterns up to 400mm wide and with the warp beam system, a half meter or more in length.

The loom costs approximately 400 THB (12 USD) in PLA plastic filament to 3D print. Additional parts include approximately 3.5 meters of cheap 22mm PVC pipe and a handful of common nuts and bolts.

Because the design is opensource (all files and instructions are available here on Thingiverse), anyone can access the SketchUp design files and modify or expand on it as long as they share it too.

Why Build a 3D Printed Loom? 

We built this loom to answer the questions: where do the clothes we wear everyday come from, and is it possible to localize their production?

Building this basic loom first gives us a starting point for tackling more complex tools, including an automated tabletop loom.

In less than a month, we went from zero knowledge regarding weaving or looms, to producing useful projects with a loom we designed and 3D printed ourselves. Here is a sofa pillow.
Like many modern industries, our clothes come from large, industrialized factories and mills that take materials like yarn and thread, and either weave or knit it into the clothing we wear.

Textile production in Thailand is a multi-billion dollar industry. It currently revolves around hundreds of enterprises engaged in various aspects of processing, weaving, and finishing of textile products for both export and domestic consumption.

It employs over 1 million workers, making it one of the most important industries in Thailand next to agriculture and other types of manufacturing. Beyond Thailand, even in places where old textile industries are thought to have disappeared, including in the US and Europe, technology has allowed companies to reinvent themselves and continue competing.

To say that there are many opportunities in this industry is an understatement.

Currently, textile production is a capital-intensive industry. Even as a hobby, small hand looms can cost anywhere between 5,000 - 20,000 THB (150-500 USD). The key to decentralizing both the industry itself and the profits it makes for entrepreneurs is to reduce the costs of the tools and technology needed to produce textiles.

Our loom which costs under 1,000 THB (30 USD), less than a fifth of the cost of its commercially sold counterparts, proves that 3D printing can help make cheaper and more accessible tools a reality.

Experimental rooftop flax production, Bangkok, Thailand.
Decentralization can also entail distributed production of raw materials like silk, flax, and cotton. We are currently experimenting with flax production within the context of urban agriculture. If it works, we will find more areas within Bangkok to grow enough to feed our experimental spinning and weaving capacity.

While no local, independent textile house could ever compete with modern and expensive looms in centralized factories, within a more decentralized textile industry, they wouldn't have to. Consider it the "organic farming" of textiles, where a multitude of local small businesses replace centralized, highly industrialized operations.

With the fear of automation taking jobs in factories, putting mini-automated factories into individuals' hands may prove the most sensible solution yet, taking the lessons learned and success of urban and organic agriculture, and applying it to other industries, like textiles.

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