Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.

Research / Discovery

Idea-2-Product, Amalgam to develop plastic fabrics

April 1, 2014
Kortny Rolston

When Amalgam Industries won a grant to develop an interlocking plastic fabric, company officials called Colorado State University's Idea-2-Product Lab for help.

The Littleton-based company needed to create and test inexpensive prototypes and perfect the fabric’s geometric design.

“I called (the CSU lab) right after we saw that 3D printing would save us time and money,” said Greg O’Connor, Amalgam’s chief scientific officer. “I2P staff has the expertise to help us.”

Amalgam is contracting with I2P for that service, a new and growing line of business for the fledgling 3D printing center.The Idea-2-Product Lab at CSU is making plastic fabric prototypes for Amalgam Industries, a Colorado company.

When the lab, which the public can access, opened last year, its primary users were students (mostly in engineering fields), on-campus researchers and some local entrepreneurs.

But in recent months, companies like Amalgam have started hiring the Idea-2-Product lab and its staff to complete work.

“It’s very exciting for us,” said David Prawel, I2P director. “It helps us cover our material and labor costs and to continue to develop our expertise in 3D printing.”

3D expertise

Prawel and his team have built and repaired many of the less expensive 3D printers in the lab. They also are constantly training students and others to use the equipment and have helped them refine their designs to improve end products.

“It’s just something we’ve done since we opened,” Prawel said. “Our staff understands how to adjust the design that we are printing and in many cases, how to improve it.”

This experience and expertise also has prompted the Idea-2-Product lab to start designing their own 3D printers, selling them to the public and even repair the technology if need be.The plastic fabrics are flexbile enough to mold around shoulders and other curvatures. The fabrics gain their strength from their interlocking, geometric design.

It's also what sold O’Connor on contracting with the CSU lab.

Printing plastic fabrics

Amalgam is designing prototypes of non-textile fabrics that contain no fibers, thread or weaving. Instead the all-plastic fabric relies on geometry and interlocking features to gain its strength.

The company licensed the intellectual property from Samsonite and is developing the fabric for use in vehicle seating, architectural finishes and other applications.

Amalgam won a small business innovation research grant from the National Science Foundation to refine the fabric technology– which includes creating stronger, smaller geometric shapes.

O'Connor said 3D printing enables them to quickly create and test multiple prototypes.

“(Prawel and his team) understand the 3D printing process and also have experience with improving design and that’s an important element for us,” O’Connor said.