Affordable Desktop CNC Machines Expand Into Textiles

Within the hierarchy of designers, graphic designers were the first to gain affordable digital tools with the advent of the Mac. Then industrial designers, with the arrival of desktop 3D printers and CNC mills. Now fashion designers will be joining the affordable digital fabrication party, thanks to designer and inventor Gerard Rubio.

As a design student in London, Rubio watched “fashion students struggle with old knitting machines,” writes his startup, Kniterate. “In contrast to the revolution that made 3D printers affordable, automated digital knitting machines have been out of reach due to high costs and size. This gave Gerard an idea: What if he could make low-cost automated digital knitting machines for everyone?”

Rubio then embarked upon his OpenKnit project to create an open-source digital fabrication machine that could produce garments. (We covered it here, and he snagged a Core77 Design Award here.) Now, some four years later—including a summer living in a Chinese industrial knitting machine factory to learn about the technology—Rubio and his team have a finished product that’s ready for prime time:

The machine’s expected retail price of $7,499 is comparable with a high-end desktop CNC mill. On Kickstarter, Rubio and co. knocked $3,000 off of the price of 25 early-bird units, which were snapped up immediately. The second-tier price of $4,699 then rapidly sold a further 32 units, meaning Kniterate’s goal will happen: At press time they were at $268,000 in pledges on a $100,000 goal.

Fashion designers and firms looking to pick up a Kniterate machine had better hurry: While there are 34 days left in the campaign, there are only 68 buying slots left.

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