Disney Research Scientists have released a paper explaining the creation of a 3D printer that uses off-the-shelf fabric prepared with a fusible adhesive as material. While not exactly the same, the technology is similar to LOM (Laminated Object Manufacturing) or Mcor's SDL (Selective Deposition Lamination), but objects are made from fabric instead of from paper.
The Disney printer is a single device (the top of the print head is a laser and the bottom is a heating element), whereas some similar technologies involve more than one machine (a 2D printer and a separate laminating/cutting unit).
Like most other 3D printers, the process begins with a sliced 3D model. Material for each layer is then CNC laser cut from a roll of fabric vacuum-hung above the print head on an inverted cutting table. Once cut, a layer is transferred onto the build platform beneath the print head where a heated disc triggers the layer's heat-sensitive adhesive backing, affixing it to the stack of other layers or to the build platform.
Experiments were performed using two separate fabrics in a single print. This allowed layers of conductive fabric to be embedded, resulting in touch-sensitive soft objects. A smartphone case was also made with a cloth antenna which was used to blink an LED.
The video below depicts some pretty thick layers, a result of the material choice which looks like felt. Thinner layers could be achieved by using thinner fabric. Specific limitations in this regard are not disclosed, but the researchers believe a 50 micron layer height is possible, given the right cloth. This would of course increase printed object resolution, giving it a much more precise appearance.