How to make your own 3D Printing T-shirt motif with a 3D printer

3D printing

3D printing T-shirt two-dimensional creations sounds absurd and a waste of potential 3D print resources. Are you sure? We’re going to try to change your mind. A 3D print  can be used to print fabric. This can produce great results, and may even save you money. This guide will show you how to make cool t-shirts every day.

We searched online for videos and articles similar to ours, but there is always a catch. The problem is that every article does not cover at least one of the following three areas: how to design a good printable model on fabric, how to use the appropriate print settings, and how to properly stick the print to the fabric.

Interestingly, no article uses our original Prusa printers for printing directly on fabric. It’s obvious why: The Original Prusa MK3S+The Original Prusa Mini+ are compact that it is impossible to wrap a tshirt around the heatbed and not get in the way of the printer movements. This is not a reason for you to give up. This problem can be solved with a special trick that we will show you.

Creating a 3D model using an image

There are many things to do if you don’t own a model or would like to use an existing image. Preparing a 3D model is the most difficult part of this guide.

Many of us don’t have the time or motivation to draw our own designs. We’ll show you how we prepare a model using a.png file. You will need to create a 3D model that is at least 1/8″ thick, even though it’s essentially printing a 2D image.

This might seem a little confusing. We will need 3 programs. Inkscape Autodesk Fusion and PrusaSlicer . You will need to convert the.png file into vectors (Inkscape), fix it with a vector sketch (Fusion 360), and then finally, adjust the dimensions and prepare it to print (PrusaSlicer).

Inkscape – Transforming images to vectors

Inkscape allows you to convert any bitmap graphic file to a vector graphic in .svg format. The file can then be uploaded to a sketch in a 3D modeling software and edited. Converting a .png file to .svg can be done using some online tools (https://convertio.co), but it will most likely cause several problems in your .svg file, for example, leave stray lines, make the whole drawing messy, etc. It is better to Download Inkscape (free with a bunch video guides) so you can adjust settings and view the changes before exporting your.svg files. Go to File/Import and choose your.png. Next, click on the path tab/Trace bitmap. You can adjust several parameters to influence the image. You can take your time and try it. Make sure to refresh the preview to view the changes. Next, open File/Save As. Finally, choose the.svg file. This is the first step.

Fixing the sketch in Autodesk Fusion 360 

extruding it into 3D in Autodesk Fusion 360 (or something similar).

You can choose from a number of programs that are specifically designed for 3D modeling. The most important thing is that allows you to insert a.svg file into a sketch, and then edit it. This is the best time to correct any errors in your drawing. You can then extrude the sketch, making it 1 mm thick, and export it as either a.3mf or.stl model. You can do this step even with a simple program like Autodesk Tinkercad.

Printing preparation (PrusaSlicer)

PrusaSlicer allows you to adjust the dimensions as needed. To be able adjust each dimension individually, unlock scale (lock icon is required). Next, enter the Z value for either one layer (PLA, or any other hard, transparent materials) or two (flexible filaments). If you need to print with a 0.15mm layer height but require two layers, set your model height to 0.35mm. The default height of the first layer is 0.2mm. However, the 0.15mm value begins with the second layer.

If you plan to print iron-on models we recommend using default print settings. However, if you intend to print directly onto the fabric we recommend making several adjustments.

  • Turn off the print cooling / Filament Setting / cooling.
  • Speed drop to 20% – It is easiest to place it on the printer directly during the actual print job.
  • Increase flow up to 150% – You can set this in Filament settings/ Filament/Extrusion multiplier, or directly on your printer during printing.
  • For the first layer, increase the temperature of the nozzle by 10-20 degrees Celsius. The material will soak into the fabric slightly if you set this in the Filament Setting / Filament.
  • In Print Options / Brim, turn off skirt and brim. These would be difficult to remove from fabric.
  • Retractions may need to be adjusted a bit. Go to Filament Setting / Filament Overrides/ Lift Z to increase the value from 0.01 to 1.01 mm. The nozzle can draw undesirable lines on your tee-shirt if it is not.

Let’s get printed

Two ways to print on a T-shirt or any other fabric are available. Each method has its pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide which one is best for you. We recommend the first method if you’re not sure of your 3D printing abilities but are willing to do some post-processing.

Iron-on models

Iron-on models allow you to change the design of your t-shirt over and over. The models will not be able to be re-used if they aren’t heated enough.

Mirror the model in PrusaSlicer before you print!

One advantage to printing iron-on models is You don’t need to print additional print (and printer preparations. Instead, you can just print two layers of fabric and iron it onto the fabric with baking paper.

The problem lies in the way you place the model on fabric and how you manipulate it. Many models can warp when printed. Some parts may also stick to surfaces due static electricity. This can make it difficult to place everything exactly before ironing.

If you are printing with flexible filament (especially TPEE (Filaflex),) don’t forget to apply a layer glue stick (PVA). Failure to do this will result in model deformation.

There is a simple solution to both of these problems. It’s 3d print models directly on baking papers. You will need to stretch the paper so that it is as flat as possible on the printer surface. Then, secure the paper with clips so that it doesn’t fall into the printer’s movements. Although it may sound complicated, this is possible if you have the right clips. Keep in mind that baking papers have a slippery surface that can trap the filament. (May contain silicone). Both sides of baking paper are bad for printing. It is possible to print by applying a thin layer with glue stick before 3d print. Depending on the material and your preferences print one to two layers. Once it has cooled, carefully peel off the baking paper. Next, take out everything not required to be printed on the t-shirt. All paper on the t-shirt will be ironed!

Place the printed paper on the fabric with the print facing down. Iron it. To get the best ironing result, one layer of PLA print is recommendedThe iron should heat up to melt properly. Failure to heat enough can cause the material to break and peel when washed and worn. Flexible filament, even in one layer, tends to blur the edges rather than soak in the fabric. We do not recommend ironing TPEE and TPU. Instead, we suggest printing directly onto fabric.

By Travis Mann

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