3-D printers typically produce hard plastic objects, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have proven that it is possible to 3D print touchable soft and silky hair, fibers, and bristles using a technique they are referring to as “furbrication”. Using a common, low-cost , FDM (Fused Deposit Modeling) printer, the researchers have produced hair-like strands, fibers and bristles. The 3D printed hair was displayed publicly for the first time at the Engadget Live event in Brooklyn, New York.
For now, the process of producing plastic hair is time consuming as it involves producing one fiber strand at a time . It takes about 20-25 minutes to generate hair on 10 square millimeters. But it requires no special hardware, just a set of parameters that can be added to a 3-D print job. The resulting hair can be cut, curled , or braided. Dense, close-cropped strands can form a brush.
The researchers used a common material, polylactide, or PLA, for their project but they are planning to use more sophisticated materials, such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, might make it possible to create hair with magnetic or other properties.
This technique could provide new applications to 3D printing such as manufacturing complete devices, make flexible joints, or even improve how electronics and wiring are produced.