MAXIFAB: ADVANCES IN PERIOD TECHNOLOGY
This is part of a larger investigation on how advanced fabrication techniques, including 3D printing, laser cutting, and defocused laser etching on textiles, could be applied to women’s health technologies.
Women are estimated to spend, on average, 6.25 years of her life on their period. This portion of a woman’s menstrual cycle is generally accompanied by discomfort, mood irregularity, and fears over bleeding through her clothing. The topic of periods and the technologies - pads, tampons, and cups - developed to prevent blood from damaging clothing are still quite taboo even in cultures deemed more progressive, like the United States; this contributes to the lack of advancement in the design of pads and tampons by researchers and designers in technology and fabrication areas.
DESIGN RESEARCH : ASKING FOR MORE FROM PERIOD TECHNOLOGIES
Lastly, we were compelled by the affordances of fabrication technologies for customization. Pads are generally design with a one-size-fits-all model, meaning there is relatively few options for length, width, absorbency, and aesthetic variety. Imagine how applying 3D modeling, 3D printing, and laser technologies to this area could allow for the end user to receive (or make) a pad that is customized to their particular body shape, size, and needs.
Design Solution 1: Laser Cut and Fused Reusable Pad
We investigated user laser cutting to assemble a layered pad. Inspired by the “LaserStacker” research in which multiple sheets of acrylic could be selectively fused and welded by defocusing the laser head, we applied this technique to creating layered textiles. Cloth menstrual pads often consist of layers of cotton, flannel and wool fabrics to increase absorption while retaining comfort during wear and ability to be washed for reuse. Fusing these pieces together within the laser cutter would allow the pads to be cut and affixed to the layers. By creating a process that could fuse these various layer, the pads can be cut and affixed, thus assembled, within the laser cutter.
Design Solution 2: 3D printed Pad Frame
The design primitive is to produce a durable, flexible, and reusable frame with a 3D printer. The frame will allow women to conveniently convert any fabric material they have at hand to a sanitary pad that is absorbent and does not slide when in motion. The basic design pattern was similar to a sandwich - two pieces of 3D printed pad frame holding together fabric materials in the middle by a clipping mechanism. The materials in the middle can be changed and reused when needed.