Buying shoes is often seen as something more related to fashion, especially when it comes to shopping for specific brands or trending styles. On the flip side, some take choosing the right shoes for granted, becoming satisfied as long as the shoe fits or feels comfortable enough. As adults, we have the luxury to choose the shoes we want, but it’s a slightly different matter for kids whose bodies are still rapidly changing and settling in. Young wearers will need footwear that goes beyond just fit and comfort, but one that can also help their feet grow in the proper way, avoiding potential health problems that could arise later in their lives. Such shoes are often labeled “therapeutic” and have expensive price tags, but We|aver+ wants to make this kind of shoes more accessible and easier to make, all thanks to 3D printing.
Designer: Yumeng Li & Zongheng Sun (PEAR & MULBERRY)
3D printing has undoubtedly changed the manufacturing landscape, both for individuals and even for companies. It opened the doors to more efficient prototyping of designs and made it easier to bring ideas to life. More recent development even allows for different kinds of materials to be used when 3D printing forms and structures, giving creators more freedom in the designs they want to implement.
We|aver+ or Weaver+, for example, 3D prints something that is akin to knitted fabric, except it uses elastic TPU as the material. The shoes that it prints out actually look more like chainmail rather than conventional fabric, and it’s not without reason. The hollow-loose knitting structure gives the shoes the flexibility necessary for supporting the growing feet of children. At the same time, however, the shoe also offers stable support to make sure the heels don’t lose their suppleness in the long run.
The therapeutic shoes also use 3D modeling even before they are printed. A child’s foot can be scanned to generate a 3D model in just a few minutes. This 3D representation is then used to analyze and determine the best combination of designs that will yield the perfect thickness and form of the 3D printed fabric. This is the ultimate customization option, taking into consideration how personal feet can actually be.
The end result is a pair of shoes that are designed to feel great but also look distinctive. It’s definitely easy to spot from a see of designer shoes because of its knitted structure, giving it a bit of a unique identity. More importantly, the design allows the shoes to stretch in one direction while also providing stability in the perpendicular direction.
Weaver+ is a very good example of how 3D printing can significantly change the way even regular people live, whether they have access to 3D printers or not. Shoes can be customized to fit the specific needs and requirements of wearers, and they can use more sustainable materials like recycled TPU. It might be harder to scale this process up to the same level as traditional pipelines, but that too could change in the near future, when 3D printing becomes more widespread and more accessible.