This Automated Knitting Machine With 340 Needles Is Old-School 3-D Printing

Upload your design files and watch this 3-D printing-inspired machine, armed with 340 sewing needles, do its magic.

If you’ve always wanted to make your own clothes, there’s now a relatively easy way that doesn’t involve any cutting or sewing. All you have to do is download some designs from the Internet, assemble some basic components, and push a button. Hey presto: A whole new outfit.


The open-source machine that makes this possible is called OpenKnit and comes from Gerard Rubio, a Barcelona-based designer. He built the machine at university for about $700, and has since produced a scarf, hat, dress, and sweater. Very nice they are too.

Rubio says he was inspired by textile mills located near where he studied (in Sabadell), and the RepRap, an open-source 3-D printer design. “I thought why not produce a 3-D printer that could produce clothing,” he says.

The machine consists of two needle beds, 340 needles, a carriage that slides back and forth, sensors that track the location of the needles, and a slider that shifts thread from one needle to the next. See more in Rubio’s “Anatomy Of An OpenKnit Knitting Machine” below:

To publicize his invention, Rubio used guerrilla tactics. He went to several big brand stores, and swapped out their clothes for his own. You can see the resulting video below: it’s amusing.

“I didn’t want to just talk about the machine and that’s all,” he says. “I wanted to talk about these corporations that are creating massive amounts of goods in precarious conditions in third-world countries. I used the platform of the store to talk about this machine and this way of production and consumption.”

Rubio admits the machine still has some reliability issues that may put off people not versed in coding and electronics. But he hopes that, as other enthusiasts take up the design, these will be ironed out.


“The more automated it is, the more people will use it. I hope one day it will be like you press one button and you get a sweater. Then it can become a real option for getting your clothes,” he says.

The design for the machine–including code for the Arduino controllers–is here. The software, developed by Mar Canet and Varvara Guljajeva, is here. Rubio’s clothes templates are here. Happy making.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.