By Michael J Coren,Michael J Coren
The latest fashions are perennially out of fashion. Which is a problem for those who don't want to shop for clothes at the same frequency they shop for food.
If so, the new Shader Printer is made for you. Designs etched with its low-power laser are only as permanent as a night spent in the freezer. Pop in your shirt, shoes, or clothes and the cold temperature erases any decals or logos. Adding a touch of intense heat (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit) from a special laser printer (or even a hairdryer) prints any design back onto the material.
The heart of the system is a "bi-stable color-changing material," a substance added to plastics, fabrics, and other materials which changes color at different temperatures. Developed by researchers at the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Keio University, the University of Tokyo and MIT, the Shader Printer is still finding its niche (conference logo wear anyone?). Its 151 DPI resolution and easy print-and-erase options, however, are promising.
The printer is just the latest in a color-shifting products that have gone from novelty to utility in the last few decades. The mood rings of the 1970s and "hypercolor" dyes in T-shirts of the late 1980s are now the sunglass lenses, paints, threads, and even medicines that respond to temperatures (or pressure, water, magnetic fields, or UV light) by changing colors.
Even more interesting are new super-fast photochromatic materials for data storage and optics. While conventional materials plod along at seconds or hours, scientists publishing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society show new materials can respond to UV light almost instantaneously, and the change back almost as quickly (such as the video here) Soon, fashion may move at the speed of light.
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.