Consumers could soon design and print their own clothes with a 3D printer capable of producing items made from fabric.
The rapid printing manufacturing process could allow clothes that have only been designed that day to be made a reality in a matter of hours.
It was developed by a team of researchers at Loughborough University in collaboration with an unnamed ‘major’ fashion house and a Bangkok-based manufacturer to perfect the process.
Among the project's aims is to harness cutting-edge polymer printing technology, known as additive manufacturing, to produce a range of fashionable bespoke clothing and footwear.
Project leaders are also hoping that perfecting the technique will help bring clothing manufacturing into the 21st century and cut down on waste, water use and pollution within the industry.
Dr Guy Bingham, senior lecturer at Loughborough, said there was "no limit" to what could be done with 3D printing and raw materials like plastics.
"This landmark technology allows us as designers to innovate faster and create personalised, ready-to-wear fashion in a digital world with no geometrical constraints and almost zero waste material,” he said.
"We envisage that with further development of the technology, we could 3D print a garment within 24 hours. Printing clothes using additive manufacturing will revolutionise the fashion industry worldwide by opening up digital manufacturing to the masses via online retail, bringing a much needed update to 19th century techniques and processes.
"This modern approach to clothing production helps meet the growing demand for personalised apparel and footwear which through 3D printing can be produced in a sustainable and ethical way."
The project is being run in collaboration with Thailand-based clothing production company Tong Siang.
Managing director David Yeh said the company had long been envisaging a future where clothes are printed directly from polymers.
"We are always striving to cut out unnecessary waste and resource use, and support the industry's goal of faster-to-market, creating a manufacturing technology that brands and retailers can install closer to their customers,” he said.
"This is all with no compromise to performance."
The project follows earlier work that saw Dr Bingham create the world’s first 3D-printed wedding bouquet for a former colleague's nuptials.
The bouquet, featuring nine nylon plastic roses, took 40 hours to create and 18 hours to print.
3D printing technology is increasingly being developed to allow it to be used for a wide arrange of purposes.
In February, scientists in North Carolina demonstrated an adapted 3D printing process that produced human flesh tailored to a patient for implants and other medical uses.