Nov 18, 2016 | By Tess

With companies like Adidas and Nike getting on board with 3D printing, it is difficult to deny that additive technology has an increasingly important role to play in the footwear manufacturing industry. As we’ve seen, from small-scale designers to established companies, 3D printing has offered a revolutionary way to create new designs and unprecedented customization. Importantly, the technology has also offered a viable alternative to large-scale manufacturing practices, which have significant footprints in terms of material and energy waste.

Of course, while 3D printing technologies themselves are quickly becoming more advanced and more viable for the footwear industry, one of the biggest hurdles is reconciling how to efficiently adopt the tech for the commercial market, for the consumer. Recently we caught up with Kevin Pagdon, a recent graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and aspiring footwear designer, who has developed a concept solution for making, marketing, and selling 3D printed shoes: 3D Printed Performance.

Kevin Pagdon

The young designer, whose background is in Environmental Design, became interested in digital fabrication and 3D printing during his studies and cemented his interest while interning for sportswear brand Under Armour. As he explains, “I spent two years as a contract designer there and had access to industry professionals in footwear design and 3D printing.” His experiences at the company, as well as his passion for environmental design finally led him to his calling: finding a more environmentally sustainable way to produce shoes.

Prompted by the fact that 99% of footwear in the U.S. is imported from abroad (Asia being the biggest importer), and that the footwear manufacturing industry generates 200 million metric tons of water waste, Pagdon set out to develop a viable and implementable product cycle for 3D printed shoes that would avoid these manufacturing realities. His concept involves four key points: improved sustainability, localised manufacturing, simplified production methods, and increased customer interaction. As he demonstrates, 3D printing technologies can account for all of these.

6-step retail experience

Pagdon’s 3D printed shoe manufacturing concept is centered around a six-step retail experience, wherein customers would not just pick out a shoe that fits and buy it but go through the steps of having a shoe designed for them. The six steps include: meeting a personal consultant, testing the client’s biometrics, 3D scanning their foot, having them design and customize the shoe, and finally, watching the print. As Padgon explains, “The six-step retail experience allows a new way to shop your fit, allowing for customization and personalization opportunities, as well as drawing interest by allowing customers to watch their shoes become a reality before their eyes.”

Notably, Padgon’s concept also places an emphasis on making shoe manufacturing an “iterative process” once more, bringing it back to its handcrafted roots. That is, not only would the 3D printed shoes be custom fitted and optimized for the client based on their 3D scan and biometrics, but the client would also be given the opportunity to customize their shoe in terms of style and color. The level of customization would of course be up to the retailer in question. Pagdon’s idea, however, is simply to take “a product that is typically designed locally and made globally, to one that is designed globally and made super locally.”

Shoe ​customization

Another important part of the designer’s concept strategy is to implement a recycling program in which used or broken 3D printed shoes could be returned to the retailer to be broken down into new materials. The client would then be able to buy a pair of new shoes from the retailer at a discounted price. Pagdon’s plan also allows for other recyclable plastics to be returned in store to repurpose more waste for the cause. Clients would also be able to learn about how the plastic is recycled and used for 3D printing through educational displays set up in-store.

Currently, Pagdon is working on fleshing his concept out even more and is hoping to implement it within the footwear industry. As he told 3Ders, “As 3D printing develops and improves I see this process being a solid starting point to recreating how we manufacture things today, and a safer method than file sharing and in home printing which opens up the possibility of knockoff product. I would love to sign on with an athletic company's innovation team and develop new concepts that drive the footwear and 3D printing industries!”

Concept shoe based off Adidas' Futurecraft

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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