Student 3D Prints Voronoi High-Heeled Shoes as Final Thesis Project

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3D printed shoes just keeps coming back to me as a topic, it seems. Last week’s news included stories about both Nike and Adidas companies integrating the technology into its business plans. I also recently covered the Shoes of Prey company that is looking into 3D printing its shoes in the near future. Why is this significant? This growing and influential company offers over 300,000 trillion variations of shoe designs with their online platform combining shoe type with colors and fabrics. Yes: that is not a typo. 300,000 trillion shoe variations may be 3D printed in the not so different future by one company.

voronoi shoe poster

Then there’s the great stories, like this one, about a design student who understands the complexity of 3D printing and decides to design and print her own pair of shoes. Jacqui Painter, a University of Colorado, Boulder Environmental Design student, decided to design and print a pair of high-heeled women’s shoes for her final thesis project. She states about her thesis project:

“To create a wearable and fashionable 3D printed shoe while still trying to conserve material and footwear traditions. To create the model I created a model of my own foot using my measurements and modeled a shoe last from it. From there I cut the last into a traditional pump heel design then modified it using parametric elements.”

In her video discussing the project (check it out below), she describes her inspiration for the shoe design, which she called Vara, as true natural forms. And she states her belief that “3D printing brings us closer to these natural forms than we ever have been… With my shoe I wanted to explore this concept by mimicking something that resembled the true form.”

coral+render+2She finally decided to use the mathematical Voronoi grid structure as the major design motif for the shoes. (Voronoi is a mathematical equation producing a partitioned plane with any number of points into a web of convex polygons, in case you needed a refresher on the concept.)

In fact, Voronoi is fairly popular among 3D designers: I have seen chess boards, vases, and many other models based on this naturally generated mathematical form. People like it for its complexity, attractiveness, and it intellectual flair since it is related to the sometimes stupefying world of mathematics.

Painter explains that she had several warped prints of her shoes before she arrived at the ones she envisioned.

This is due to the lesson she learned about the need to incorporate the mechanics of 3D printing into the actual design process so that the printing works. She used Grasshopper’s algorithmic software, Rhinoceros 5.0 and a Lulzbot 3D printer for the project.

1444935076401Additionally, Painter has produced a wonderfully informative YouTube video (see below) about the project, and a highly detailed graphic (see above) outlines her creative process, too. The only thing missing, as far as I am concerned, is there is no description or photos of how the shoes feel on real feet.

But some missing details about the shoes real world functionality in her blog report does not subtract from her creative vision and the great introductory explanation she gives of the 3D design and printing process.  Discuss this story in the 3D Printed High Heels forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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