3D Printed FootwearConsumer ProductsDfAMParametric Design

Impact F1, what next-gen, parametric, 3D printed flip flops look like

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The ability to leverage parametric online customization tools to create and personalize entire products is embedded in the potential of 3D printing as a production technology. Until now this potential has been only marginally exploited but the possibilities are rapidly increasing: more optimized products, more customized, more innovative, more sustainable: in the footwear segment, Impact Footwear is introducing all these features truly next-gen 3D printed flip flops: the Impact F1.

As a relatively small and highly versatile product, flip-flops have immediately emerged as a potential candidate for the use of 3D printing as a mean for mass customized production. However, for 3D printing to really make sense, the flips flops needed to expand on two primary characteristics: the complexity of geometry and extreme customization. Working with footwear designer Nolan Kim, Impact Footwear founder Craig DeMerit and his team developed an accessible, parametric, online customization tool, which integrates the possibility of selecting unique and highly complex lattice geometries for maximum comfort and uniqueness.

A view of the different steps in Impact Footwear’s online configurator

The 3D Configurator, lets users select the options they want, starting with a blank slate and proceeding through 9 different steps. The 3D model can be zoomed in and rotated to see each modificuation applied in real time. Users can pick from several options for insole, midsole, and outsole design. Color and upper style add to the individual look of each pair. The 3D printed lattices mean users can also select different compression levels for heal, arch, and toe zones.

Lattice technology brings a completely different feel to footwear compared to injection molded rubber and foam. With the ability to fully change the geometry of the midsole of the F1 Flip Flop, Impact Footwear can determine the amount of responsive cushioning that the lattice structures provide. With the added benefit that lattices require a lot less material than solids.

Using a proprietary automation system, Impact Footwear can create a printable shoe file in under 10 minutes with no human involvement, while taking into account hundreds of thousands of different configurations. Although the initial price – over $100 per pair – is still probably a bit too high for a flip flop (but not for any individually tailored product), the way to doing away with singular molds to produce thousands of the same shoe is set, and individual design will eventually be the new reality.

The Impact F1 are produced using selective laser sintering technology, although the company does not clarify whether the material used is the common nylon 12 or a more flexible TPU. Each product is also automatically finished using DyeMansion technology for Vapor Smoothing process from one of our vendors. This makes the material stronger, smoother, water tight, and easier to clean. Impact Footwear also claims to be able to re-use some of the thermoplastic material from worn out flip flops to produce other parts. The Impact F1 should become available soon and in the meantime you can take the online configurator for a spin. It’s worth it.

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