A visit to a historical fair where I learnt about aglets (the caps on the ends of shoelaces) got me thinking about ways of customising clothing using 3D printing. I thought about customised aglets for a while but decided they were too small. Then I struck on the idea of buttons with letters on them and opted for square letter tile buttons because it offered me more surface area to play with given the tiny amount of space on a standard button.

Placing the letters on the tiles presented an interesting challenge. On pretty standard-sized 10x10mm button four holes ate into the letter forms too much on most letters, so I went for two holes instead. On the larger 20x20mm buttons I designed the increased surface area meant a more secure four holes worked without making the letters unreadable.

3D Printed Letter Tile Buttons

Printing the buttons only takes a minute for the smaller ones, going up to 5 minutes for the larger ones. Initially I printed them using white PLA but have been experimenting with a wood-effect PLA filament to give them more of a natural look.

The buttons work both functionally and decoratively and can be used to spell out names, words, and initials. Most shirts only give you 7 or 8 buttons in a row to play with so some creativity may be required, and I’m thinking about a next iteration which includes punctuation, glyphs, and blank letter tiles to create more possibilities for customisation.

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