Apr. 24, 2015 | By Alec

While a number of projects have already tried to 3D print beautiful and comfortable shoes, they have proven exceptionally difficult to 3D print. However, that it can definitely be done is proved by Chinese designer Zhang Xiaolong, who has just won the Silver Award at the Global Footwear Design Competition. He submitted the 3D printed sneaker called 'FUTURE' as his entry, and beat competition from, among others, Russia, Italy, Thailand, Indonesia and China.

The competition was co-organized by British shoe designers Delcam CRISPIN UK, who also proved a a number of shoe experts to act as judges alongside several British senior designers and media representatives. They evidently enjoyed Zhang Xiaolong's interesting combination of sportswear and technology. Judge Natacha Alpert, a consultant at MIRAS 3D commented: 'Excellent use of concept brief and attention to detail for a unique design', while Independent Footwear design expert Rob Major said that 'Zhang has great creativity, his thought process and story boards are excellent'.

As the designer said, he believes that his designs represent a new modern chapter in footwear. 'Designers need to balance the emotional and the rational, and look for effectiveness and practicality in their designs. I believe that the development of science and technology can help designers present their ideas quickly.'

Zhang Xiaolong has been designing shoes for four years now, and is employed as a junior shoe designer at Anta Group. Having studied Industrial Design before starting his career, he has found it very easy to use software in shoe design – something which has been slow to catch on. As he told Chinese reporters, the use of advanced technology is crucial when seeking to design a pair of beautiful, practical and comfortable basketball shoes.

Zhang Xiaolong is therefore very happy that 3D printing technology is finally catching on in the footwear industry. It's biggest advantage is speed: while traditional shoe models require 12 manual workers, and take 4 to 6 weeks to complete, 3D printed shoes can be completed in just 1 to 2 days by two people. Zhang Xiaolong himself used Delcam CRISPIN ShoeMaker design software to design his shoes. The meticulous design was worked on for about a month.

Zhang revealed that the key to a good shoe is to look at its function. 'In the design of a shoe, the surrounding factors must be taken into consideration. 'Breathability is the key factor in design when it's hot, while Isolation is the key factor when it's cold. Inspired by this, I analysed the environment of basketball players. Taking into consideration of such factors including fever, injury and competitiveness, I created this project by using the latest technology.' In this process, he took inspiration from architecture design and a class he took from an American architecture studio. As he explains, buildings don't just need to be beautiful, but serve a function in a specific ecological environment.

There's just one problem with these shoes, and that is that they're not easy to wear. As Zhang reveals, its rather difficult to find the proper sole materials to fit the wearer. 'It's still a concept shoe,' he said.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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