# 3D Print something as flexible as a cloth with PLA?

Would it be posible to design something that is as flexible and that can be printed with PLA that would work as a cloth? I did some research and found that there was a company named Electroloom but that didn't make it. I'm not looking for anything fine, just something that would work for wiping

• It's not that easy: plant-based cloths work as wipes because they can absorb moisture quickly. So you'd need not only a flexible material (of which there are some), but a material that somehow prints with lots of microvoids, and has very high longitudinal tensile strength (as thread does). Apr 2, 2020 at 15:04
• @CarlWitthoft maybe foaming PLA filament will do the trick, that creates lots of voids.
– 0scar
Apr 2, 2020 at 22:04
• Can you clarify what kind of "wiping" you want it to do? Apr 3, 2020 at 2:46
• @CarlWitthoft The first filament of its kind using an active foaming technology to achieve lightweight, low density PLA parts. At around 230C this material will start foaming, increasing its volume by nearly 3 times. ColorFabb is a Dutch premium filament company; good value for money, and many filament types and various colors. But I doubt the bubbles are open, so I don't think it will absorb water. It is a cool filament for ultra-low weight structures.
– 0scar
Apr 3, 2020 at 12:20
• It would be helpful to understand what aspects of cloth you need to re-create. You say "wiping", but are you looking to wipe water-based or oil-based liquids? Or, are you perhaps looking more for the polishing aspects of wiping? There are many questions that you could be asking. Rather than close this question, I am hopeful you will clarify the information you seek.
– cmm
May 6, 2021 at 18:49

Maybe you would be better off with TPU or some other type of flexible material...

I have been able to print PLA and have it flex quite a bit, but that was an ~0.2mm single layer print, I guess maybe up to 0.3-0.4mm should still be a little bit flexible, but not much. Also since you want it to wipe things, maybe you should look if TPU even has all the properties required for that as Carl mentioned in the comments.

You can not 3D print that because there is no nozzle or method for producing filaments of the required size. A few microns at least. You might be able to spin molten pla like cotton candy and it might absorb; but I doubt it.

## printed PLA will not behave like cloth.

Hard PLA can not behave like cloth, and even a 0.1 mm sheet of PLA will behave like a plastic sheet, not like cloth. In itself, it will always be a hard material.

## printed PLA can be combined with fabric

Printing a hard plastic onto a thin mesh of fabric can create a compound material. For example, this has been used to create "scales" that are embedded on the fabric, for example with an octagon setup. These materials have limited bending areas and can, if designed well and made from small scales, almost fall similar to a stiff normal fabric, or have totally different behavior.

Only the printed on fabric will be able to absorb moisture, a hard lip printed onto the material will be able to push liquids and solids. If instead of PLA a TPE was used, the lip would deform to have contact and act as a wiper.

With clever design, this can even be used to imitate fantastical scales.

## Printed PLA scales can imitate cloth

NASA worked on a 3D printed scale mail, which offers a somewhat solid surface when under no extra load but shows special movement patterns when exposed to forces. For example, a curtain of these printed scales could, under force, always push itself to the left side and assume a shape that funnels an airstream to the right. These 3D printed scales are at times referred to as "printed chainmail" or "printed fabric", depending on how they fall and how large the individual elements are.

The result of inquiries into these print in place solutions range from designs that use techniques used in classic flexible jewelry band designs and European 4:1 Chainmail patterns that fall exactly like their metal counterparts over designs inspired by the NASA method that almost behave like a leather in a limited movement range to more exotic ones that imitate in one axis the movement of tank threads while being a little stiffer in the other

## There is spun PLA cloth...

PLA can be spun into yarn in a similar process to the making of other polymer-based yarns. The resulting thread is 0.01 mm and thinner and then can be weaved using traditional methods. In this thickness, it behaves exactly like cloth, but that is an order of magnitude thinner than the thinnest nozzle available on the commercial market (0.1 mm) and unprintable.