We’ve seen three-dimensionally printed shoes, fabric, and even superhero armor. Continuum Fashion and Shapeways are now launching the world’s first fully 3D-printed bikini. But don’t mistake this for another concept piece. The N12 bikini, complete with components and closures that snap together without sewing, will be available for purchase at the “personal fabrication service” tomorrow.

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CLICK, BUY, PRINT

The N12 is named after nylon 12, a strong yet flexible material that can be printed as thin as 0.7 millimeters without breaking. (It’s also waterproof, with a texture said to resemble seashell when wet.) Designers Mary Huang and Jenna Fizel, who previously created an app that turns any drawing into a dress, designed their sexy number by modifying Rhino 3D CAD, a computational software normally used by architects and industrial designers.

The bikini comprises circular plates, each varying in size based on the curvature of the would-be wearer’s form.

Using a process known as select laser sintering—or SLS, for short—the bikini materializes through a series of circular plates, each varying in size based on the curvature of the would-be wearer’s form. First, a thin layer of nylon powder is laid out onto a platform within a preheated chamber, based on information determined by the CAD file. The laser then melts (or “sinters”) the tiny nylon particles into a solid mass.

What isn’t fused by the lasers remains as powder, and the sequence is repeated to build the form layer by layer. When all the layers are complete, the excess nylon powder is removed and collected for reuse.

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NO MIDDLE GROUND

By creating garments using 3D printing, designers can put their products in the hands of their customers without the intervening suppliers and vendors. “The exciting aspect about 3D printing is that you can make a complete finished design that just comes off of one machine,” Huang tells Ecouterre. “In terms of fashion, this means you can make something, without sewing, with all of the closures included. You can even print the product labels with the design.”

By using 3D printing, designers can put their products directly in the hands of their customers.

Theoretically, Huang says, we could create a machine that recycles plastic bottles into a dress, bag, or other fully realized product. “We’re not there yet, but it’s important to start designing with considerations of systemic innovations.”

+ N12 3D-Printed Bikini Top $250-300; Bottom $200 at Shapeways

+ Continuum Fashion