Although we’ve seen a fair share of 3D printing applications for midsoles in modern footwear design, we’ve been yet to see any additive manufacturing technique that’s been practical enough for creating uppers on a mass scale, too – a critical missing component of being able to manufacture shoes on demand.
Designers and engineers at Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have indeed made strides for custom footwear produced through on-demand additive manufacturing methods, but the majority of these efforts appear rooted in easy PR opportunities rather than practical and lasting products.
But now, a new startup is set to launch what just might be the foundation for the not-too-distant future of footwear design and manufacturing. While Hung is an entrepreneur, with multiple successful businesses across technologies, consumer products and manufacturing, Shi is a designer and recipient of multiple design awards including a Red Dot Design Award, IF Design Award, and an IDEA Gold Design Award. One of Shi’s designs, the Nokia 1200, has sold more than 100 million units and ranked as 3rd best selling mobile phone in history.
With their strong backgrounds in design and manufacturing, Hung and Shi have turned to industrial knitting machines to develop a three-dimensional knitting method for producing the exact amount of materials for each shoe – a resourceful and environmentally–friendly manufacturing method that avoids using and wasting excess material.
The resulting shoe designs – which resemble a lightweight driving shoe or canvas slip-on – are said to be similar to other fabric or Nylon shoes and are resilient to most water situations.
“3D knitting is a very new technology,” explain the designers. “We made tons of runs of sample trials, and we want to make sure our shoes have a high quality for mass production.”
To kick things off, Hung and Shi are offering two lines of the 3D printed shoes: the Classic Line and the Love Line. While the Classic Line features a more neutral grey exterior, the Love Line offers a more rainbow-hued option for those who wish to wear their 3D printed shoes more loudly. For just $69, these aren’t too bad on the wallet, either.
Hung and Shi have nearly raised the $50,000 requested from backers with over a month left to go in their campaign. For those interested in a different kind of summer shoe this year, the company is expecting to fulfil the 3D printed shoe orders in March.
To find out more, head over to the company’s Kickstarter page.