Jan 19, 2016 | By Andre

The emergence of wearables in the fashion industry is something that has been bolstered and pushed by some of the world's largest tech giants in recent years. Whether you’re talking about smart-watches, self-tying shoes or merely facinated with the emerging VR craze, there’s likely something out there that will tickle your fancy.

Mixed somewhere within that realm lies J&S Enterprises, a small California based lifestyle and product development company that is innovating with 3D knitting; something that promises to provide a new spin on old style manufacturing. And with a recently launched Kickstarter campaign in full swing, JS Shoes, the comfortable, customizable and lightweight knitted shoe created entirely by automated knitting machines, is looking to raise some eyebrows.

Comparisons to 3D printing are touched on in part-because of the automated process behind how the knitting takes place, but also because of the customization their method allows for. Mass customization, as they call it, provides "a marketing and manufacturing technique that combines the flexibility and personalization of "custom-made" with the low unit costs associated with mass production.”

What this means is that you can eventually mix and match styles, colours and even shoe sizes when placing an order. They state that “with the buy one by one strategy, consumers can purchase one shoe at a time to create a completely custom pair. Whether a consumer creates two completely unique shoes in different colors and sizes to create a quirky and fun pair or sticks to the basics of having a matching duo, an individual’s unique style can be amplified with JS Shoes. “

From there, your custom design and fit are programmed in the computer with the preselected details and the knitting machine does the rest. For now, the Kickstarter campaign allows a few custom colour schemes as well as a Special Edition Rainbow variety that will surely turn some heads.

The design itself is very minimalist in these early stages. The entire JS shoe consists of a knitted upper, an exterior sole and a cushion so to eliminate the need for a mid-sole or any stitches. After having gone through their Kickstarter page, it’s obvious style was very important to the duo behind the 3D knitted shoes. And after learning of co-founder Xiaoxi Shi’s resume, I’m not surprised in the least. He is one half-of the JS Shoe team and has spent his entire career designing primarily for the tech-industry. One of his designs, the Nokia 1200, is the 3rd best selling mobile phone of all-time with over 100 million units sold!

Beyond these elements of customization and “cool factor” already in play, there are a few happy consequences to consider with their manufacturing technique. First of all, they advocate a waste-less production method by claiming that their knitting machines use up exactly the right amount of material programmed in for each shoe, thus eliminating wasted material common in traditional settings.

Additionally, they suggest a huge reduction in manpower (upwards of 80%) with their approach. While this automation could be seen to further support claims held by the World Economic Forum's recent report that suggests we might lose upwards of 5 million jobs to automation by 2020, there are two sides to every coin. Modern production methods like those being pioneered with the JS shoes may one-day change how traditional textile factories are laid out; this along with the seemingly never-ending human rights violations and low-wages segments of the sector have become known for.

Example of traditional textile production

JD Shoes Production Facility

For now however, the JS shoe and their Kickstarter campaign ensures a technologically innovative spin to an old manufacturing model all while making available an incredibly stylish, light-weight and comfortable 3D knitted shoe ideal for any low-impact, urban setting.

As with any Kickstarter, the team admits there are some risks and challenges. Production setbacks may occur (even though they’ve tested their machines on “tons of runs and sample trials”. Additionally there is an element of uncertainty regarding how weather resistant the shoes can be (they suggest to treat it like any other fabric or nylon shoe).

If you do end up backing the campaign, early-bird savings will get you a pair in any colour you want for a very reasonable $69 (otherwise retailing for $89). The special Rainbow Edition of the shoe is also a Kickstarter exclusive so nabbing one while the campaign is live might be the last chance you'll get at this limited edition. Beyond this, the remaining pledge options consist primarily of bulk-order discounts and their campaign goal currently stands at $50,000.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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