What’s more kid friendly than Disney World? How about a teddy bear that is 3D printed by Disney! Just like Pittsburgh, PA is home to Inventionland, so too is it the home for the research behind these 3D-printed teddy bears! In fact, a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh have worked together to create a 3D printer that can invent soft objects made of wool and wool blends.

Disney’s latest invention idea is a mix of a 3D printer and a sewing machine, which is actually how it works! Once an object has been designed by the 3D modelling software, a layer of felt is then placed on the print bed. Next, the wool yarn is threaded through a needle that is attached to the print head.

Once all of these steps have been taken, it’s now time to create the object. First, the print head moves over the felt layer and lays down the wool in the determined shape. A barbed needle then uses a technique otherwise known as “needle felting” to bind the fabric together. It then pierces the fabric and drags the fibers down through the lower layers and tangles them together in order to create a tight bond.

The final object resembles a toy that has been hand-made and felted. The team sees the potential of this invention somewhere along the lines of current uses for 3D printing, prototyping and customization. Furthermore, they believe that it could be used in order to create parts for “soft” robots and adapted to incorporate hard parts, such as electrical components with the chance for multi-material hard and soft printing.

Although this is just the beginning, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh continue to diligently work on this 3D printing invention in an effort to make the felted objects more “robust!” Only time will tell what the final product will look and feel like!

Copyright Inventionland 2014