Eric Meijer admits that the existence of 3D printing technology has really been a boon to his psychological well being:
“If 3D printing didn’t exist, I would be a frustrated person with a lot of weird sketches and ideas.”
He would also be Dutch man, living in Spain, who has been a commercial diver since 1984…now he’s a Dutch man, living in Spain, who has been a commercial diver since 1984 and designs shoes for 3D printing.
These aren’t some modified Jelly shoe or a simple beach flip-flop either, but high-end, ready for anything, sleek and sexy shoes. Meijer works closely with Rosanne Bergsma, a shoe designer in Arnhem, to help take his sketches and ideas into footwear. His interest in shoe design began when his mind’s eye could see things that he couldn’t find available on the market. So far, he has developed three different concept shoe designs that are ready to wear and has a fourth that still requires some attention before it’s ready to actually be on a person’s feet.
Incorporating 3D printing into the creation of high end footwear means that Meijer has to work with a variety of software:
“I use Cinema 4D and ZBrush because they work seamlessly together. ZBrush is my favorite software. It has an excellent free learning platform called Classroom. They also give fast feedback if you have any questions. It is great value for money, and in the ZBrush gallery you can see mind boggling work from other 3D artists.”
The shoes combine materials such as leather, stainless steel, and polyamide, among others, and somehow manage to incorporate features such as a bottle opener while still looking chic and not trashy. The Party Starter, with its stainless steel bottle opener heel, also incorporates an alumide lattice for toe-box ventilation and may just be the answer to sweaty party feet without having to show toe.
A similar silhouette is found in the shoe named Mixed Emotions, but it’s no copy cat. Instead, the toe comes to its natural point and the stencil shaped heel of the Party Starter has been replaced with one that would make the Danish Modernists proud. Tarted up by a printed set of lips and changeable inserts that appear through peekaboo slits in the leather, it can go from office to art gallery to night out on the town.
There is a significant shift between the first two dress pumps and the third titled Space Invader. These shoes rely much more heavily on production through 3D printing as the only parts not created through additive manufacturing are the leather straps and insole. The incorporation of the structure of the shoe into its appearance and the simplicity of the intersection between the 3D printed and leather work components makes this an intriguing piece that still looks as though it could be wearable.
The fourth design, in process due to Meijer’s admirable dedication to creating shoes actually fit for humans (something I wish there was a bit more of in high fashion footwear), is an effort to create an entirely 3D printed piece. Made completely of 3D printed polyamide, it’s a fascinating idea exploring the capability for such a material to be able to handle the weight of a person and hold up under the stress.
The materials themselves are something Meijer enjoys working with despite the drawbacks, and each requires its own concessions and makes its own contribution.
“I enjoy working with polyamide because i.materialise has a priority service which ensures fast delivery and makes it easy to use for testing and prototyping. I used stainless steel for the heels on the leather shoes. I made this decision after an attempt with polyamide and ABS which [wasn’t] strong enough to carry the weight of a person,” he said. “I picked alumide for the lattices in the Party Starter model. Actually, I would have liked it better if it was in high-detail stainless steel because then it would be shiny just like the stainless-steel heels but the building box couldn’t cope with the size of the lattice.”
Meijer imagines that 3D printing shoes not only will change the range of products available, but the very way in which we relate to them.
“I think that when 3D printers become faster and cheaper, you will reach a point where this kind of business will get profitable,” Meijer says. “I hope that the production process for 3D printed shoes might look something like this in the future: the order comes in, and the shoes get printed right away. Assembly could be done in less than 10 minutes and the shoes are ready for shipping. The big advantage of this will be no more [need] for stock, or expensive machines for assembly.”
As with all products of the 3D technology revolution, the design input is still the most important factor; after all, ugly shoes, when 3D printed, are just ugly shoes that arrive faster. However, the possibility for customization and the democratization of design means that we might not have to rely on just the relatively bland options available to us if we live outside of a major metropolitan center. And also, no matter what shape your feet actually are, you could still have the hottest footwear.
And remember, if you don’t like what you find – you can always make your own! Let us know your thoughts on 3D shoe design in the 3D Printed Shoes forum thread over at 3DPB.com.
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