Most people in the Western world will choose to replace a torn shirt rather than repair it. This is usually because clothes are quite inexpensive and getting a replacement takes up less energy than sewing it back together (a skill which most adults no longer possess).
Lithuanian designer Ingrida Kazėnaitė created the Fabric Pen with the hopes of making clothing repairs as easy as drawing. Users simply point the pen at the torn item, and the pen scans for the correct colour, pattern and texture. It then 3D prints a patch based on the information it collected.
The design is currently just a concept and is a finalist in this year's Electrolux Design Lab Challenge. However, Kazėnaitė says the technology is possible.
"3D technology is moving fast," she said. "There are also nano-particles being incorporated into fabrics to improve fabric properties already. I believe something similar would be very realistic in the near future, building on the idea of a unified fabric particle delivery system as a way of creating fabric like for cotton or polyester clothes."
The technology could also be used to alter old clothes and users are tired of, so that they essentially get a new piece and don't have to get rid of it. Kazėnaitė hopes this could eventually decrease the rate of consumption in America.
"We’ve been focused on producing for some time now and it’s not looking too good for us in the future if we keep it up," she said. "It is important that we put more effort on recycling and repair, now more than ever."