3D Printed Shoes

Step Into the Future of Shopping with a 3D Printed Shoe

Shoes

Who should read this: Any woman who loves shoes!

There is no doubt that the first and most popular article of clothing which designers have been focusing on with 3D printing are shoes, especially women’s shoes. Not to sound stereotype but, to many women, shoes inspire the same intense turmoil of emotions and passions that football does for men. The examples abound, both in high fashion and Pret à porter. And the rate of production through 3D printing is speeding up to the point that the idea of a store-based production 3D printer for tailor-made, perfectly fitting shoes is no longer too far fetched.

3D printing at your feet

Bryan Oknyansk was the first designer to offer a customized 3D printed shoe online store. Experimentally he also created a desgin for Vogue Italy 3D printed in metal (©Bryan Oknyansky)
Bryan Oknyansk was the first designer to offer a customized 3D printed shoe online store. Experimentally he also created a desgin for Vogue Italy 3D printed in metal (image: Bryan Oknyansky)

While experiments with the 3D printing of shoes have been going on for a while, one of the first globally relevant designs was shown at the 2013, Paris Fashion Show. Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen amazed the audience with her “Embodied Wilderness” (created in collaborations with 3D printing guru and MIT professor Neri Oxman), which included a particular pair of shoes inspired by the roots of trees.

Meanwhile On Cubify, 3D Systems’ online marketplace, everything is being set up to meet the future needs of mass 3D printing consumer adoption, which the company plans to kickstart women’s shoes, especially those designed by Janne Kyttanen, its own creative director and consumer 3D printing “prophet”. His is not the only project that wants to make 3D printed shoes truly pret-a-porter: Brian Oknyansky created the Split Heels, also in partnership with 3D Systems, offering customers the ability to personizalize the desired model online and receive the final version at home. In 2014 one of Bryan’s creations, 3D printed in Titanium was chosen among the top 10 best in a Vogue Italy contest for young designers.


Walking on modern mythology

Daphne, a design by Mary Huans that can - almost - be 3D printed at home (image: Continuum)
Daphne, a design by Mary Huans that can – almost – be 3D printed at home (image: Continuum)

Mary Huang, a designer from New York, founded Continuum, an online store for 3D printed shoes that can – almost – be produced with a home 3D printer. Her first Myth collection inlcuded designs inspired by ancient and modern myths: one “floral” laurel tree, inspired the myth of Apollo and Daphne, and the other polygonal, inspired by the modern “myth” of Tron polygonal graphics. The myth she is after, is that of shoes that can come out of a 3D printer “ready to wear”, something that – if it were to become reality – would exponentially increment the number of women interested in buying a 3D printer. And that of men as well… Just imagine: no more shoe shopping. Ancient Myths seem to be a common trend for 3D printed shoes.

Cristina Franceschini experiments with amazing designs 3D printed in nylon (image: Cristina Franceschini design)
Cristina Franceschini experiments with amazing designs 3D printed in nylon (image: Cristina Franceschini design)

Designer Cristina Franceschini (more on her in the following days) based her latest shoe creations on mythological figures such as Eva and Bacco, the Roman god of wine. The result is that her shoes are true works of art, blending ancient beauty with modern laser sintering technologies. She uses Zbrush to sculpt them and create the beautiful nylon 3D printed exterior that snap fits perfectly around a metal stiletto heel, for optimized lightness and solidity.

Even iMaterialise, a leading online 3D printing services, offers several original shoe models, such as the ones created by fashion students or enthusiasts. These include Katrien Herdewyn, a student of physics and design of the shoes, who created a pair of shoes inspired by the special properties of nanotechnology. Or Marieka Rastma, whose model “Juxtapose” recreates the contrast between the trees and the skyscrapers of Boston. You will also find the Bone Shoes, by South American student Manuel Vogel: a futuristic design based on enhanced bone structures, such as ribs and spine.

Try walking in my 3D printed shoes

Designer Francis Bitonti showed the possibilities of full color polyjet technology (image: 3D Printshow)
Designer Francis Bitonti showed the possibilities of full color polyjet technology (image: 3D Printshow)

While, on one side, 3D printed shoes are becoming more realistic, on the other side 3D printing technologies are offering designers unprecedented possibilities to explore and unleash their creativity. The “art exhibit” at the latest 3D Printshows in London and Paris was the perfect place to catch some of these more of futuristic creations. The exhibit was sponsored by Adobe and Stratsys and provided a way to to view waht can be achieved with the color gradients of Stratasys polyjet multi-material technology. Materialise’s lateat laser sintered Vans-like shoes made in elastic TPU were on display next to the new design by 3D printing visionaire designer Francis Bitonti, inspired by colorful computer pixels.

The two trends – realistic and fantastic – combined into the amazing custom made DNA shoe by Pensar studio, one of the most impressive 3D printed designs I have personally ever seen in the world of 3D printed shoes (as well as in the world of shoes and that of 3D printing in general). To create them, Pensar, used a 3D scanning system and sensors to detect the exact pace of a person; it then turned to Stratsys Object500 Connex3 Stratasys to 3D print the shoes in elastic high resolution materials. These are just the first examples but, in a not too distant future, shoes will be printed directly into the store. And soon after that, at home. It is just too great a possibility for it not to happen.

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