One industry that seems to have thoroughly embraced the potential of 3D design and printing to revolutionize it from the ground up is the footwear industry. We’ve seen examples of 3D designed and printed shoes that range from the ergonomic to the elegant, the eccentric to the outrageous — and the technology keeps improving, as does the scale of possibility it seems.

While Francis Bitoni’s extraordinary pixellated 3D printed shoes that resemble earthbound coral reefs and Michaella Janse van Vuuren’s “Extreme Serpent” platforms are indisputable aesthetic marvels, they do challenge notions of what’s feasible for the wearer, who must surely maintain a delicate balancing act while artfully shod.

3D Print designer: Michaella Janse van Vuuren, customisable uppers: Uformia on a Stratasys Connex3 multi-material multi colour 3D printer. Clothing: Clive Rundell, Photographer:Merwelene van der Merwe.  Model: Lerato Moloi of Heads. Make up: Marilyn du Preez

Michaella Janse van Vuuren’s “Extreme Serpent” 3D printed shoes

Other, less gravity-defying footwear like Pensar’s DNA line of footwear seems infinitely more wearable yet still beautiful — shoes seemingly made of leaded glass but in actuality quite comfortable (according to Pensar).

Some folks are getting it right, combining comfort and aesthetics with customization, and there’s little doubt that the industry will continue developing new techniques for bringing 3D design and printing of footwear closer to the mainstream and, consequently, more affordable. We’re pleased to see that Delcam CRISPIN is in the vanguard of such efforts. One pretty ingenious way they’re doing so is by demonstrating that traditional and contemporary methods of shoe-making needn’t be mutually exclusive. In fact, says the company, it is “possible for these supposedly conflicting forms of manufacturing to coexist.”

Delcam CRISPIN is rolling out its hybrid part-traditional, part-tech shoe designs at the SIMAC exhibition (SIMAC & TANNING-TECH, a major industry expo showcasing the latest innovations in the shoe and leather goods, and tanning industries), which is being held in fashionable Milan from February 25 to February 27. At the show, Delcam CRISPIN, the footwear branch of Delcam, one of the leading global suppliers of advanced CAD/CAM solutions for the manufacturing industry, will demonstrate its footwear design software, ShoeMaker. Delcam CRISPIN makes possible the mass customization of footwear and will show off its hybrid high heels in Milan.

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The shoes, which don’t conceal their hybrid nature, feature a leather upper and a 3D-printed sole and heel. The shoes were developed in ShoeMaker, which Delcam CRISPIN boasts is “the only footwear design system that integrates fully 3D designs of lasts (the 360° mold upon which a shoe is constructed), uppers, and soles.” The complete CAD model of the shoe is developed and visualized in the single ShoeMaker system.

Delcam CRISPIN regards its footwear design software, ShoeMaker, as a means by which designers can incorporate new materials and the increased design freedom of 3D modeling and printing without sacrificing the comfort of traditional materials like leather. What’s more, designers are no longer hindered by the restrictions of conventional manufacturing techniques, so they are free to create — even the most outrageous designs are not out of the question!

The shoes they’re highlighting are possibly intentionally overtly hybrid-looking, perhaps to emphasize the potential for ShoeMaker to fuse traditional and cutting-edge technologies. These curiously elegant red-and-black stilettos will surely fit right in in fashionable-to-the-extreme Milan!

Are 3D printed shoes in your future? Let us know if you would design or wear your own pair over at the 3D Printed Hybrid Shoes forum thread at 3DPB.com.

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