Mary Huang, co-founder of Continuum Fashion recently spoke at a LeWeb event, where she described some of their work to produce ready-to-wear 3D printed shoes.
Ms. Huang explained the basics of 3D printing, which is still new to many. It seems that 3D printing with desktop equipment is actually quite suitable for the production of shoes, because:
- Desktop machines are the right size to print human-sized shoes
- Print materials are similar to what is used in making real shoes, particularly recently release rubbery materials
- Unlike, say, cell phones that are all identical, shoes should be uniquely fitted to each foot
- In the shoe industry, premium margin derives from the design, not the materials, meaning the 3D printing workflow has significant advantages for shoemaking
- New designs can be rapidly produced without involving third parties, shipping, stocking or other complicating factors
- Scaling up is simply a matter of adding more machines
Ms. Huang also described some of the techniques their company uses to produce the shoes:
- The shoes come out 90% complete - some details are added afterwards
- Shoes are always designed for manufacturing - but 3D printing is very different when making shoes
- It's important to design invisible features that make the shoe practical
- Continuum optimizes slicing for their specific designs to achieve a smoother (and much faster) result
- Product variations are trivial using derivatives of older designs
The company is focusing on several specific designs for their upcoming launch in spring 2014, when they hope to be come the very first company to make ready-to-wear 3D printed shoes.
Are you ready to wear them?