Tuesday, September 14, 2010

3D Scanners and Printers in Custom Shoemaking

I'm thinking about future possibilities right now.

Here in North America where all the shoe manufacturing is overseas, and elaborately-sewn shoes are inexpensive, how could someone like me possibly compete? I think one of the ways is individualization. Making something that is just for one person. It fits over that bump on their foot and has a heel that is like those fabulous kitten heels they remember from their graduation shoes.

One shoemaker scans their client's feet to make the mold, called a last. When I first looked into scanning, the price of a scanner was prohibitive. Now however, 3D scanners are now becoming affordable http://www.makerbot.com/ makes a 3D scanner (for the shoe last) and a 3D printer (for the custom heels). Look at these innovative shoe designs from Kobi Levi Footwear Design. I like the heel that looks like bubblegum pulling off the sidewalk. That type of heel could be manufactured on a Makerbot.

There are still places in North America to learn how to make shoes. http://www.shoeschool.com/shoeschool/. And there are a few books: http://www.shoemakingbook.com/ and http://www.marywalesloomis.com/

So maybe this is one way us small-scale, local folks could compete in shoe manufacturing, by supplying the customization and design that you can't find at your local big box store.

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