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Polish Design Graduates 3D Print Eco-Friendly Shoe

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For their graduation project at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland, design students Zuzanna Gronowicz and Barbara Motylinska, visualised their concept for a customisable 3D printed shoe. They’re made from eco-friendly materials and can be ordered using an app. The two young designers used a ZMorph 2.0 SX multitool 3D printer to create prototypes and plan the entire production pipeline.

According to the research conducted by Anton Pieper, over 20 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured every year, mostly in Asia. One shoe can be composed of over 30 different materials, some of which are very hard — or even impossible — to recycle. Equally troubling is that up to 25,000 litres of water is used just to make one pair of shoes, which clearly has huge environmental implications. This data inspired Gronowicz and Motylinska to look for more eco-friendly shoe making tools — 3D printing proved to be one of them.

Customizable 3D printed shoe and an app to make them (Source: Gronowicz & Motylinska)

When designing their customisable 3D printed shoes, their main goal was to make them recyclable but fully functional. At the same time, the users would gain the ability to decide how the shoes would look to make them more personal and unique. Interestingly, Gronowicz and Motylinska developed their own method of 3D printing objects directly on wool and cotton. This enabled them to create more flexible shanks and manufacture the whole shoe without gluing or sewing it together. By not using glue, the shoes have a lower environmental impact. At the same time, the textiles enable proper feet perspiration so the shoes are more comfortable to wear.

Creating a light and flexible sole was also a challenge. Gronowicz and Motylinska came up with a parametric openwork structure that can be adjusted to fit different foot shapes. At the same time, the structure requires less material for printing — with almost no support needed — while making the sole very durable.

Single material printing proved to be successful for various types of flex filaments. Two-material extruder printed more intricate objects, shapes, and ornaments with soluble PVA support as well as added colour gradients to them.

Gronowicz and Motylinska also designed a dedicated app allowing users to design their own shoes. It’s still at an early stage, but the authors want to give their users the ability to prepare the printing files and save them for free, order a pair directly through the app or to search for a 3D printing workshop nearby.

Gronowicz and Motylinska continue to test and refine their idea for customisable 3D printed shoes and want to turn them into a working business.

Customizable 3D printed shoe and an app to make them (Source: Gronowicz & Motylinska)

[Source: ZMorph | Images: Motylinska and Gronowicz]
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