fouch1When it comes to unique methods and creations of 3D printing, one South African man is at the forefront. You may recall hearing about Hans Fouche’s large “Cheetah” 3D printer, which gets its name from the super fast printing that it is capable of. The way in which the Cheetah 3D printer works, is that it prints in extra large layers, thus replacing aesthetics for speed.

It was just a few weeks ago that we broke the story of Fouche’s 3D printed lawn mower which was printed in just 9 hours. Then last week, came news of his 3D printed vacuum cleaner which happened to double as a flower pot. These large scale objects are no challenge for Fouche’s Cheetah 3D printer, which has a build envelope of 1000mm x 1000mm x 1000mm, and can be purchased for approximately $10,670 (125,000 South African Rand).

Now, Fouche is at it again, and this time he has suddenly taken on the role of fashion designer, with his newly announced 3D printed shoes. The Cheetah printer is not known for printing aesthetically pleasing objects by any mean, but then again that’s the whole concept behind this innovative machine. Its layer height is 10 times that of more conventional FFF-based 3D printers, thus leaving noticeable lines within prints. At the same time though, it is capable of printing 12 times faster than these more conventional machines.

So how could a 3D printer that is not known for creating smooth, seamless prints be used to create shoes? The answer is quite simple. Fouche 3D prints what he calls “blanks”, which are basically the innards of his final product. The ABS printed blanks are able to be custom fitted for any size foot prior to printing, and then they are covered with leather and attached to rubber soles by Fouche’s acquaintance, Mr. Azuka.

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As you can see in the photos, the 3D printed blanks quite frankly don’t look very appealing whatsoever. However, when covered with leather, and teamed with a rubber sole and leather straps they become quite appealing in many ways.

shoes1Fouche reminds me of a mad scientist. A good mix of crazy, combined with an equally helpful intelligence make him a bit of a unique personality within the 3D printing space.

“The comfort level can be customized,” Fouche tells 3DPrint.com. “Could this be the start of comfortable stilettos? Lets scan your feet ladies, and order all your new shoes from us! Shorter production runs are now possible and no more hugely expensive molds are involved. The ideal combination of craftsmanship, and new technology [presented] through 3D printing.”

It is impressive that it took just one hour for Fouche to 3D print one pair of shoes, but it’s even more incredible to consider that when the Cheetah 3D printer is equipped with 10 extruders, which is very possible, it is able to print out one pair of shoes in just 6 minutes flat. Fouche tells us that he has plans to even cut this time down further by lengthening the x-axis slides on the Cheetah from 1 meter in length up to 2 meters, meaning that it could print using up to 20 separate extruders at once.

Fouche has so far 3D printed 3 different shoes. One was a completely solid model which was extremely strong and unbreakable. Another was a completely hollow shoe, which was very lightweight yet also very fragile. The third was a shoe that featured a semi-hollow honeycomb pattern which combined the lightweight of the hollow shoe with the strength of the solid one.

fouch4One of the benefits of these 3D printed shoes, are the costs involved. The Cheetah 3D printer is capable of printing using raw materials (pellets of plastic), as opposed to spools of filament like conventional desktop 3D printers do. The solid shoes require approximately 0.9 kg of plastic material per pair, while the hollow ones only require 0.5 kg, and the honeycomb version uses about 0.75 kg of material. Considering that the price of plastic pellets run Fouche about 30 Rand per kg (about $2.60), this means it only cost between $1.30 and $2.34 in material to 3D print each shoe. Of course, this is in addition to the standard pricing for the leather covering and rubber needed for the soles, as well as labor costs, but still this seems to be a much more affordable method for creating comfortable, shoes than other more common means of production.

Fouche plans to begin selling these shoes on a small scale, to see exactly how much interest there will be. What do you think about these 3D printed shoes? Will Fouche’s idea catch on? Discuss in the Cheetah 3D printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Check out the video below of these shoes on a woman’s feet.

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