THE DRAGON IS ALIVE: Reactive 3D printed wearables 2014

Body informed 3D printing for fashion: khaleesi the little dragon is alive by Paola Tognazzi from paola tognazzi on Vimeo.

THE DRAGON IS ALIVE REACTIVE BODY INFORMED 3D PRINTED WEARABLES by Paola Tognazzi at the wearable senses department of Tu/e University 2014. I applied the technology of 3D printing to make a wearable garment able to shapeshift interactively to the wearer’s movements.

The dragon is alive 2

The original idea of the project was to make a wearable able to align our back and activate our imaginary wings to make us alert and ready to fly. The motivation was that of an ergonomic alignment fabric to help correct postures and protect the body from the danger of injuries due to unaware movements. I love metaphors and storytelling and in my project development process there are always movies or tv-shows references.

it was Summer 2014 GOT time. The image of the birth of the dragons, when Kalisi was still an innocent woman and the baby dragon opened his wings for the first time, was so epic it subconsciously influenced the shape of the design and this little 3D printed baby dragon come to live. Ironically that he would later die, Kalissi would loose it and John Snow f and kill her, actually made it a proper metaphor of the original concept and need for such wearables application.


In this project I worked on 2 fronts parallely

1: Developing a system that connects the dynamics of the body to the textile so that the body actuates the interaction and its transformation in a mutually informing process.

2: Designing the adapatative patterns.


As a physical interaction designer my specialty is to embed movement in materials.
My expertise is to find and map the connections that actuate interactive transformations between different materials.
In 2008 I created Wearable_SuperNow an interactive wearable, composed of bracelets embedded with movement capture sensors that allow wearer’s to transform audio visuals with the energy of their movements.

In 2011 I translated dance and choreography’s techniques into the dynamic structure systems visualization tools DANCING WITH SHELDON and CHOREOGRAPHING SPACES using Processing language.
These tools are custom made to design interactive patterns designs that transform, reacting to live data, to analyze the variables of movement directions, energy and tempo and to extrapolate their values.


Because I wanted the body itself to be the engine of the material transformation, to solve the problem of the electronics weight tearing the materials, I applied proprioceptive methodologies to find and map the connections and directions in the body and designed a mechanical system to connect the body with the 3D printed textile, so that the movements of the arm can activate and control the 3D structure transformations.

I applied Dancing with Sheldon and Choreographing Spaces to design the materials reactive patterns then I connected the simulations to Wearable_SuperNow to test their shapeshifting performance qualities in the interaction.

Finally we 3D printed the patterns and sew them with the embedded connecting system into a shirt.The result was a textile structure that accommodates physical movement and allows the wearer to participate to the design of the shape through their own personal dynamics data.


With The Dragon is alive I developed a technique to embed reversible movement in 3D printed materials and to make them shapeshift changing directions, thickness and volume.

With this technique is possible to create material structures able to perform multiple behaviors according to the information sent by the actuators. These materials can have multiple functionalities.

The next step is to apply it to weaving to make interactive textiles that do not homogenize bodies and can be implemented by fashion designers to make wearables that can augment our senses and reality.

BIG THANKS TO: fashion designer Pauline Van Dongen, Martijn ten Bhömer, Kristi Kuusk, Brandon Yeup Hur and Ralph Zoontjens.