If anyone were going to create a 3D printer that would create cuddly objects made out of felt, it would be Disney. And that's exactly what's happened, in conjunction with Cornell and Carnegie Mellon universities. The printer "slices" a 3D model of an object into layers, then laser-cuts those layers into matching shapes made out of adhesive fabric and onto a building stage, PC World explains. Heat is then emitted to activate the adhesive, and the layers continue outputting in their proper order until they've stacked into the desired object. The user then simply peels away excess material little by little until the object materializes, per CNET. The printer was introduced at an April 18 human-computer interaction conference in Seoul.
In a Disney Research Hub video, a tester creates a bunny and other soft, bendable objects, and how each piece of fabric bends depends on the cuts that are made, as the video explains. According to the DRH paper about the printer, conductive fabric can be used as well, creating "3D models with touch sensing capability built into a soft print" that are interactive. Two drawbacks CNET notes: This technology creates a significant amount of waste material, and the layers are very obvious. The tiny bunny created in the video would have to be larger to really minimize layers; Disney says the 2.5-inch bunny seen here took about 2 ½ hours to print. (A 3D printer allowed NASA to email a wrench to an astronaut on the International Space Station.)