Problem and initial situation
Our fashion industry is characterized by critical production conditions, negative environmental impact and an alarming consumer behaviour. With regard to our planet’s finite resources, such circumstances are no longer tolerable. A rethinking needs to take place. The objective must be to do justice to the increasing need for more sustainability. At this point, it is necessary to consider all sustainability areas – the economy, the society and the environment – in technological development equally, as technologies can contribute strongly to environmental change.
At this point, it has been shown that the technology of additive manufacturing initially has many advantages compared to traditional fashion manufacturing methods. Fewer transportation or less material and energy waste are only few examples. Nevertheless, high costs for consumers and the existing lack of comfortable materials, printing methods and knowledge raises questions on the technology’s potential for consumers and the fashion industry as a whole.
On the one hand, many people highlight the idea of customised garment printing, on the other hand there is scepticism, if this new kind of production and consumption is attainable at all. For this reason, a consumer-oriented Technology Assessment was done to provide more clarity on the topic.
To work efficiently on the research topic and to have something like a guideline, the following main research question was developed:
- RQ: How can additive manufacturing become a usable technology for printing garment at home in future?
Two additional sub-questions were added to simplify the answer to the main research question:
- SQ 1: How does a Technology Assessment model need to be structured to be usable for the Technology Assessment of additive manufacturing and guarantee a strong inclusion of private persons?
- SQ 2: Which criteria need to be fulfilled to make additive manufacturing socially acceptable for garment production in private households?
The first sub-question aims at taking up the problem that over years there has been only little involvement of society in technological development.
The technology assessment consisted of an impact estimation and a technology evaluation. The intention was to identify the AM technology’s impact and to evaluate its consequences on economy, society and especially the environment in order to come to a final decision for enterprises, politics and consumers. The impact estimation consisted of a scenario analysis based on existing research, data and forecasts and extended by expert opinions to identify possible consequences of printing garments at home.
First, so-called key influencing factors for the research scenario “printing garments at home” were identified.
In the next step, these factors were projected into the future, more precisely to the year 2050. The intention was to find out how these factors will develop in the future. Will there be, for example, a higher amount of comfortable materials? Will energy costs or 3D printer sales prices rise, fall or remain the same? After projecting the factors in this way by literature research, an expert survey was done to improve the already developed projections by even more expertise.
The final projections were summarized in two different scenarios in written form and evaluated by consumers in a consumer survey. 149 people participated in the survey.
The results showed that many developments still need to take place at environmental, social, economic, political and scientific levels in order to make garment printing attractive to private individuals not only in theory but also in practice. Reducing costs, increasing sustainable materials and improving education are just a few examples at this point to achieve consumers’ adoption.
Additive Manufacturing only can become a usable and socially acceptable tool for printing garment at home, if consumer demands and technological requirements such as appropriate materials, methods and printers, adequate rules, prices and education as well as environmental consciousness are fulfilled. At this point, an adequate financial frame combined with appropriate education, law and standardization is crucial but also the consideration of alternative technologies. For instance, many participants of the consumer survey specified to favor the Slow Fashion approach or the 3D body scan over other technologies.
However, all results of the work still need to be questioned critically, as the consumer survey only represents a small part of society and the scenarios that were developed within the scenario analysis of the work are not “true”. They do not predict a 100% probable future, but only try to visualise what might come in the future. For this reason, Technology Assessments are not completely meaningful without additional research. Sherry R. Arnstein (1997) has already put this fact in a nutshell decades ago as he said:
“While the need for holistic analysis of complex societal problems is critical, Technology Assessment offers no panacea for fulfilling that need”
(Arnstein (1977): Technology Assessment: Opportunities and Obstacles, p. 579).
In the end, the thesis primarily serves as a guide for rethinking and sensitization that aims to improve both the additive manufacturing technology and its application for garment production as well as existing behaviours in the society and the fashion industry.
Preview and Headerimage: Adidas (14. Nov., 2018). Adidas 4d redefines running for your sport with all-new fw18 alphaedge 4d. URL: adidas 4D redefines running for your Sport with all-new FW18 ALPHAEDGE 4D [access on 25 August 2021]
Brecht, L.; Stelzer, B. (2015). „3D‐Druck“: Eine Technologievorausschau anhand IT‐gestützter bibliometrischer Analyse und Szenariotechnik. ITOP series 5. University Ulm