The 3D print industry has existed since the mid-1980s, however, it's just now receiving its flowers and has infiltrated the footwear industry for some time now.
House of Errors recently previewed their Topo 1s through a series of images. the 3D printed shoe consisting of stacked wavy panels is set to drop this sunday in collaboration with alive form. Ahead of the drop, we wanted to discover how this technology may have a future in the footwear industry
One benefit is the sustainability aspect. Both the production and materials are more sustainable as recycled materials are used which are also recycled when the shoe meets its lifespan. This creates a 360-loop of materials being reused. Additional features such as water, seams, stitching and toxic glues can all be avoided, adding to the sustainable nature.
Research firm SmarTech did a study on the 3D print footwear industry and in their report stated that the industry is expected to generate more than $8 billion in profits by 2030. Big name players such as Adidas, Nike, New Balance and Reebok have already played their part. As consumers become more environmentally conscious and opt for more personalisation, 3D printing may be the next option for the footwear industry to explore. Here’s a look at the benefits it provides and the brands getting involved.
In terms of sustainability, it does have a flaw. 3D printers can emit large numbers of ultrafine particles and hazardous compounds into the air. It also requires high energy levels compared to traditional footwear production. Nevertheless, 3D print could still be a more sustainable option for the footwear industry.
Due to quicker production processes, 3D-printed shoes can be created quicker in accordance with market demands/feedback regarding design, volume and personalisation aspects. Being able to print multiple versions also speeds up the sampling stage where designers can settle on a final version much quicker. They are also printed on demand meaning it avoids waste and fulfils demand, potentially giving sneaker resale culture a run for its money.
CUSTOMISATION + VARIATION
3D print allows consumers to buy shoes fitted perfectly for their feet which eliminates sizing issues some may find with traditional sneakers. Furthermore, it allows for more intricate and complex patterns meaning it can provide an endless amount of design options making it hard for the traditional sneaker industry to keep up.
Alive Form is a company using 3D printing to "expand the possibilities in design and green solutions." their purpose is to "anticipate the future of design while creating a better and greener tomorrow". They place themselves at the intersection between nature and science due to their design philosophy that aims to be "In-line with nature"
Alive Form was a brand going viral last year for their Monstera Stomper, since then, they've released a myriad of different shoes including one with UK fashion brand, House of Errors.
Zellerfeld is a tech startup company specialising in 3D-printed footwear. Their aim is to democratize the footwear industry due to the reduced costs and lower barriers to entry. So far they've been able to do this with multiple brands such as Heron Preston, Pangaia and Kidsuper.
ZELLERFELD X HERON PRESTON
When Zellerfeld link up with Heron in 2021, the pair dropped the shoes exclusively on StockX via a raffle. Consumers could enter the raffle for $10 with proceeds going to charities fighting child labour. Raffle winners were able to scan their feet with an iPhone to create a pair of shoes that perfectly fit them. They were also entered into Zellerfeld’s Beta Program, allowing them to trade in worn shoes for reprinted and updated newer versions after this beta release. Zellerfeld and Heron, then went on to drop an updated pair in July last year.
Cornelius Schmitt (Zellerfeld CEO)
"I think (the sneaker industry) should be democratized. Designers should be free, they should experiment, even if the shoe doesn't sell. With 3D printing, we could reduce the spending from half a million dollars to zero, and if you bring it to zero, everyone can experience it. we can be sent a file, we send them the shoe the next day."