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The Next Step In 3D Printing Is...Knitting?

3D printers may have started as a high-tech novelty, but they're becoming increasingly powerful. These days, they can print everything from rhino horns to self-driving cars. Which is why it may be surprising that one company is using similar technology for a decidedly lower-tech purpose: knitting. Kniterate is a digital knitting machine that can whip up wearable fashion at the touch of a button.

Related: 3D-Printed Rhino Horns May Save The Rhinos

A New Take On An Old Machine

Old knitting machines are standard practice in fashion design, particularly for fashion students. Kniterate cofounder Gerard Rubio was frustrated by the antiquated machinery at his design school, and decided to invent a digital knitting machine called OpenKnit. The device garnered a good amount of attention and landed him a spot at the hardware accelerator HAX, but it was only the beginning. Soon, he teamed up with Triamback Saxena to create Kniterate, a compact and affordable industrial knitting machine that takes designs from your computer and "prints" them into wearable pieces.

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Small enough to fit on a desktop, Kniterate can print pieces ranging from scarves and hats to ponchos, pants, sweaters, and even shoe covers in virtually any material. Designers can conceive and create their looks while sitting at a computer, then upload the creation and watch Kniterate do the rest. The company also provides ready-made designs. At just under $5,000, it's not exactly a pair of quilting needles, but it's a small price to pay for groundbreaking tech you can wear and flaunt.

Related: 3D Printers Can Help Blind Children Learn To Read

Kniterate's online software has a variety of templates to start with.
You can print out garment parts and assemble them yourself.

3D Printing Goes From Plastic to Fabric

3D printers already boast seemingly boundless potential. You can digitally print both plastic and metal pieces to create things like phone cases, medical models, and even musical instruments. Kniterate helps expand that range even more, and we can only wonder what doors this new potential will open. Gerard Rubio saw a need and filled it. The question is: what will we need next?

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There is a large selection of things you can create.

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