Kinematics Dress

We have created the first dress with Kinematics, our 4D printing system for generating complex, foldable forms. The Museum of Modern Art has acquired the dress along with the software that created it for their permanent collection. Composed of thousands of unique interlocking components, the dress was 3D printed as a single folded piece at the Shapeways factory in New York City and required no assembly. The Kinematics Dress represents a new approach to manufacturing which tightly integrates design, simulation, and digital fabrication to create complex, customized products.

Dress in motion

Kinematics Cloth is a web application where people can design custom-fit 3D garments by sketching and sculpting in real time. Try it at kinematicsCloth app

Bodies are 3-dimensional but clothing is traditionally made from flat material that is cut and painstakingly pieced together. In contrast, Kinematics garments are created in 3D, directly from body scans and require absolutely no assembly.

Dress sketches and variations

We employ a smart folding strategy to compress Kinematics garments into a smaller form for efficient fabrication. By folding the garments prior to printing them, we can make complex structures larger than a 3D printer that unfold into their intended shape.

Kinematics Fold uses rigid body physics to accurately model the behavior of the structures generated by Kinematics Cloth. The simulation uses the Open Dynamics Engine (ODE) solver to reproduce the behavior of the physical object with each module represented as a simplified triangular shape connected to each other by idealized hinges. Rather than trying to find an optimal fold for a given structure, which would be computationally intractable, the software mimics how one might physically fold a garment in real life. Each garment goes through a series of collisions designed heuristically to reduce the overall size in an intuitive manner.

Optimized for production

Even this approximate approach is quite computationally intensive and encounters many difficulties. Geometry has direct impact on how well an object can fold. Areas with negative Gaussian curvature have a lot of movement but areas with high Gaussian curvature are naturally more rigid, preventing compression. Also, the network of hinges between rigid bodies is densely interconnected which causes numerical problems. Not only does the computation required greatly increase with the number of hinges, but the error of the entire system also increases.

technology used: C++, ODE, OpenFrameworks

Huge block of nylon powder removed and prepped for further clean up
Swatch of kinematics structure showing hinge details

The custom-fit dress is an intricately patterned structure of 2,279 unique triangular panels interconnected by 3,316 hinges, all 3D printed as a single piece in nylon. While each component is rigid, in aggregate, they behave as a continuous fabric allowing the dress to flexibly conform and fluidly flow in response to body movement. 

X-ray view rendering showing hinge structure
Air blasting excess powder and loosening all the joints

The Kinematics Dress is a technical achievement but it's also an article of clothing. We designed it with comfort and durability in mind, aiming to make a 3D-printed garment that you can actually wear, one that invites movement instead of constraining it.

Final dress ready to show off

Unlike traditional fabric, this textile is not uniform; it varies in rigidity, drape, flex, porosity and pattern through space. The entire piece is customizable, from fit and style to flexibility and pattern, with Kinematics Cloth our first app for clothing.

Dress responds to natural movement

See more process and development at n-e-r-v-o-u-s


Eric Rachlin and Paul Melnikow at BodyLabs

Paola Antonelli and Paul Galloway at MoMA

Duann Scott and Shapeways

Lana and John Briscella for moral support

Andrew Robertson for filming

Steve Marsel for photographing

Larosey for taking the dress for a spin