Need a bikini, ladies? Print one with a 3-D printer!

The summer swim season is almost upon us in the northern half of the globe, meaning the swimsuit sales have already begun. Why bother running out to a store and fighting for the latest fashions when you can just print your bikini? That’s the idea behind Continuum Fashion’s N12 bikini, as pointed out by Kate Hartman: Simply hit up a website, choose your size and any accessories. The company then prints a wearable bikini and ships it to you.

We’ve discussed 3-D printing in the past, but if the idea is new to you, here’s how it works at a high level. Using software, objects are designed on a computer which then generates instructions for a special printer. The machine prints the 3-D object design by building it one layer at a time, using special inks made with plastic materials. Each successive layer is built on top of the others and when the plastic hardens, a 3-D object is created. The key difference here is that Continuum is using Nylon-12; a wearable synthetic described by the company here:

“This solid nylon is created by the SLS 3D printing process. Shapeways calls this material “white, strong, and flexible”, because its strength allows it to bend without breaking when printed very thin. With a minimum wall thickness of .7 mm, it is possible to make working springs and almost thread-like connections. For a bikini, the nylon is beautifully functional because it is waterproof and remarkably comfortable when wet.”

I’m not sure if the world is ready for wearable, made-to-order clothing from a printer just yet, but I think Continuum is onto something here. With a 3-D printer, consumers and businesses alike could print or replicate small objects that they typically have to order and buy from a mass manufacturer.

Think of small tools, gears, wheels, knobs and such, although the possibilities are virtually endless. You could design and print your own smartphone case, for example. Once the idea catches on — and the technology comes down in price while new materials are supported — printed clothes aren’t out of the realm of possibilities.