Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, 3D printing has been in the news for the past few years and has been developing at a steady pace. At first 3D printing technology was used exclusively for rapid prototyping, however, steadfast advances in storage, power, and bandwidth have catapulted the technology into a powerful tool for the manufacture of finished products. These products range from everyday products such as shoes, clothing, jewelry, and accessories to parts for jet engines and cars and even parts of the human body such as artificial jawbones.
Several shoe manufacturers including Feetz, United Nude, and Nike are now using 3D printing to create custom-made shoes for customers in-store and on the spot. Having to break in new shoes that are too tight and hurt your feet, or wearing shoes that always feel uncomfortable will all be a thing of the past due to this marvelous technology.
What is 3D Printing?
When you first hear of something being manufactured by printing it, you may have a hard time trying to visualize how this can be done, but when you understand how a printer works it makes it easier to relate to the concept. Whereas printers make use of ink to deposit blobs on paper, 3D printers build things up in layers by depositing different types of material until the final product has been created. A design of the product is downloaded to the 3D printer, much the same way as a computer sends instructions to a printer, and a laser creates layers of material such as plastic or metal and fuses it. Each subsequent layer of material is fused by laser until the product is finished.
3D printers range in size from small units the size of a microwave oven to huge mammoth printers that can print and build houses. 3D printers that can print houses are already in use and work by depositing layer upon layer of cement until a wall has been built.
3D Printing Shoes for the Perfect Fit
No two people have identical feet and yet most shoes are mass produced in a factory in standard sizes. This makes it extremely difficult to find shoes that fit properly and that is what makes it so enticing for customers that tailor-made shoes can be custom printed in their own unique size and shape. Many people have one foot that is larger than the other or may be wider than the other and finding a pair of shoes that fit both feet is extremely rare. And to make things even more difficult when buying shoes, the shoe sizing system is limited to the length of a person’s feet without taking into account how wide the feet are. With 3D printing, all of these problems will be solved.
How Does it Work?
Rather than trying on numerous pairs of pre-manufactured shoes in standard sizes, a photograph is taken of your feet from various angles which are downloaded into a computer to create an accurate 3D model of your feet. Information such as your weight, height, and daily activities are also entered into the computer and combined with the details of your feet. A blueprint of the perfect shoes for your feet is then downloaded into the 3D printer and a pair of shoes tailored exactly for your feet is printed. In some cases, this can be done in the store right in front of your eyes as is the case at United Nude stores, or you can have them sent to you by companies such as 3DShoes.com.
3D printing shoes are not only used for fashion shoes but also has therapeutic applications. Makers of corrective orthotics are using 3D printing to create custom-made orthotic shoes to alleviate foot pain and improve a patient’s comfort.
3D printing is also being used extensively by sports shoe manufacturers to print custom made sports shoes such as football boots, athletic shoes, running shoes, and other action footwear.
With the rapid development of the technology, 3D printing is offering manufacturers opportunities that until recently sounded impossible – to create objects anytime, anywhere, and on demand. While most shoes are still made and sold the traditional way, 3D printed shoes and other printed products are sure to become commonplace in the future.