3D Printed “Chain Mail” Paves Way for Next Generation of Smart Fabrics

A new type of ‘chain mail’ fabric that is flexible like cloth but can stiffen on demand has been developed by scientists in Singapore and the California Institute of Technology. The lightweight fabric is 3D-printed from nylon plastic polymers and comprises hollow octahedrons – a shape with eight equal triangular faces – that interlock with each other. When the soft fabric is wrapped within a flexible plastic envelope and vacuum-packed, it turns into a rigid structure that is 25 times stiffer or harder to bend than when relaxed. The fabric could potentially be used for bullet-proof or stab-proof vests, medical support, and protective exoskeletons for high-impact sports or workplaces, like construction sites.