3D Printed Footwear

Why HILOS’ Studio platform is 3D printing the footwear of the future

The company's approach to disrupting the multi-hundred billion dollar industry, according to Founder and CEO Elias Stahl

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At this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, Portland-based HILOS unveiled its new ‘Studio’ platform to enable brands and independent designers to launch their own line of on-demand footwear – from technical outdoor to luxury – heavily leveraging 3D printing technology. HILOS now offers the first high-mix, low-volume supply chain for on-demand footwear that allows for a wide selection of low-volume runs to change and iterate according to the demands of the market.

Prior to Art Basel Miami Beach, we caught up with Elias Stahl, Founder and CEO of HILOS, to find out more about why HILOS exists in the first place, and how he and his team are disrupting the multi-hundred billion dollar industry.

Why HILOS' Studio platform is 3D printing the footwear of the future, according to Founder and CEO Elias Stahl.
Elias Stahl.

In short, HILOS’ goal is to build an on-demand, zero-waste supply chain that unites digital manufacturing and sustainable craft with footwear, apparel, and fashion, in a way that does not fundamentally alter its DNA. “For us, this is about fundamentally realigning a very large and polluting industry on our planet – that is specifically susceptible to digital manufacturing – and making it more efficient,” said Elias.

According to Elias, it typically costs a brand anywhere from $120,000 to $250,000 just to create molds for an initial size run, in addition to the 12 to 18 months it takes to go through the design and development stages – all without really knowing how the market is going to react. There is a lot of investment and risk involved in the traditional way of manufacturing footwear.

As an outsider to the footwear industry, Elias sees this both as a blessing and a curse. “It’s a blessing in the sense that we were able to question so many fundamentals that the industry doesn’t often question, and we are able to think very creatively about them. However, having a core knowledge of footwear is so critical to understanding the best way to evolve its DNA for a 3D future. This is why we intentionally chose to base HILOS in Portland, Oregon – the capital of footwear innovation, globally.”

Why HILOS' Studio platform is 3D printing the footwear of the future, according to Founder and CEO Elias Stahl.

Unlike traditional footwear manufacturing, which involves assembling multiple components often produced overseas, HILOS takes advantage of localized production enabled by [mostly] HP’s 5200 Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology and BASF’s TPU materials. With this approach, HILOS is able to print with 80% recycled material and completely recycle at end of life – drastically reducing the waste, carbon footprint, and costs. Early last year, the company teamed up with Yale University, BASF Forward AM, and AMT to produce the first environmental evaluation of 3D printed footwear.

“There’s never been a better and more exciting time to be in manufacturing or supply chain technology – both because hardware, software, and materials are changing at a revolutionary rate, unlike anything we’ve seen since the 1890s and the introduction of synthetic chemistry, but also because we, as a planet, know that our current supply chains no longer serve us,” said Elias. “We believe that there is an incredible opportunity for this technology [3D printing] not to obscure and replace the artisan, but to empower and celebrate them.”

Why HILOS' Studio platform is 3D printing the footwear of the future, according to Founder and CEO Elias Stahl.
“THE XII Modular Sandal” by Unknown Union, produced in partnership with HILOS.

HILOS’ new B2B brand platform has garnered the attention and support of influential figures in the fashion and footwear industry. Jonathan Cheung, former Head of Design and Innovation at Levi’s, has been a long-time advisor to the company. He was joined this year by Eric Sprunk, former COO of NIKE, now on the board at HILOS, Greg Bui, former VP of Global Manufacturing for Footwear at NIKE, and James Carnes, former VP of Strategy and Innovation at Adidas. Alex Valdman, former Creative Director of Rapha and Allbirds, and Cooper Gill, former Creative Director at Arcteryx, led creative direction, while Christopher Morency, former Chief Brand Officer at Vanguards Group, led market strategy.

HILOS’ Studio debut at Art Basel Miami Beach, featuring “THE XII Modular Sandal” by Unknown Union, seemingly marks the beginning of a new era in footwear manufacturing – driven even more by technological advancements, sustainability, and creative freedom. Earlier this year, VoxelMatters attended Footwearology’s first annual FOOTPRINT3D event, in Barcelona, where we were given even greater insight into the 3D printing footwear industry – in the form of individual case studies, applications, and innovative business models.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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