OESH Shoes Receives NSF Small Business Grant to Finish Development of Pellet-Based 3D Printing Process
Make room, Wiivv and Feetz, as OESH Shoes joins you in the increasingly-busy 3D printed footwear arena. The Charlottsville, Virginia-based company is a subsidiary of JKM Technologies, LLC, and was founded by physician, scientist, and engineer Dr. Casey Kerrigan, with a tagline of “Shoes made for women, by a woman.” OESH has been making and selling comfortable shoes for women since 2011, introducing a men’s line earlier this year – and was recently awarded a Small Business Innovative Research Phase II Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in order to complete the development of its patent-pending, pellet-based 3D printing process to manufacture footwear.
“We are very grateful the National Science Foundation chose to continue funding our research, which will allow us to refine our 3D printers for large scale customizable manufacturing,” OESH employee Maggie Rogers told 3DPrint.com.
“The shoes we are developing at OESH are truly unique from the other footwear on the market, so it makes sense that we needed a unique manufacturing process to create them. 3D printing allows us to design geometries that would be impossible to manufacture any other way, and perform better than anything else we’ve seen.”
The company’s unique process, based on Dr. Kerrigan’s biomechanics and gait research, is set to revolutionize the world of footwear manufacturing. Dr. Kerrigan began working on developing OESH shoes when she attended Harvard Medical School and later, when she was a professor and chair in the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine. The shoes are eco-friendly, and designed to complement an active woman’s daily lifestyle. The design of OESH shoes is quite different from conventional ‘cradle’ shoe design – its website says that, according to research, the curvatures, heel elevation, and support in traditional women’s shoes increase peak joint torques that relate to strains and stresses in our joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
So, based on this research, all styles of OESH shoes have totally flat soles – there’s no side-to-side contour, heel elevation, or built-in arch support. This flat sole, unlike the curved soles of typical shoes, helps forces distribute more naturally, and doesn’t increase the loads on your joints. A blend of engineered elastomer materials, designed to work with the body to decrease loads and increase performance, is used to make the shoes. The shoes come in multiple styles, including sandals, sneakers, and clogs.
OESH is listed as ‘healthy by design,’ as the shoes were developed exclusively on the principles of peer-reviewed medical science. Typical athletic shoes cushion heel impact with toxic foam materials and use contoured footbeds to control foot movement, but the OESH Sole is a flat elastic spring that compresses when the foot is fully planted. According to the website, many women choose to wear OESH shoes for medical conditions, such as knee pain, plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, and Morton’s neuroma; the shoes even work well with orthotics.
The OESH 3D printing process was developed as a way to prototype new designs, and to go one step further and be used for production manufacturing as well. The technology, which is funded by the NSF, allows the company to 3D print its unique footwear for large-scale production manufacturing, while getting around many of the “developmental challenges” that other shoe manufacturers have to deal with.
OESH’s Artemis and Athena sandals for women and its Apollo and Ares sandals for men are currently 3D printed using the company’s patent-pending process, and getting a lot of approval from consumers. Thanks to using its 3D printing technology for prototyping and production manufacturing, OESH is lowering the use of noxious materials and toxic adhesives normally found in the footwear manufacturing process, while at the same time, the company says, “maximizing the performance of the engineered elastomer OESH Sole.”
You can currently buy OESH 3D printed footwear online in a variety of colors; remember that quality isn’t cheap, and a pair will set you back anywhere from $120 to $160, though many would say the price is worth it to beat joint pain. If you happen to be in Charlottesville, you can also visit the OESH Factory from noon until 3 pm every Saturday.[Images: OESH]
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