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3D printing may be the future of footwear manufacturing

Swatches | August 31, 2023 | By:

Elastium, a startup based in the United Arab Emirates, and the Munich, Germany-based startup Sneakprint, have harnessed 3D printing technology to manufacture shoes.

Elastium-1 sneaker. Photo: Elastium

Elastium has developed sneakers using fused granulate fabrication 3D printing technology, a method of 3D printing that uses raw materials in granule, or pellet, form rather than filament form. 

This method is more inexpensive than its counterpart, fused filament fabrication, and allows for multiple materials with varying densities to be printed, such as the thermoplastic elastomer foam in the Elastium-1 sneaker model.

The foam is 100% recyclable, lightweight, comfortable, durable and machine washable, and it features a mono-material design developed in part by artificial intelligence.

RetroTechV1. Photo: Sneakprint

The company plans to release additional sneaker models throughout the year.

In Munich, Sneakprint uses 3D printing to customize shoes to customers’ exact foot dimensions.

To ensure this, the RetroTech V1 shoe is offered in only one size: ME-Size. New customers are given a Sneakprint imprint kit to measure their feet, and this data is then used to 3D print a precise-fitting midsole.

“No two feet are the same,” Kevin Zurn, CEO and founder of Sneakprint, says, “and wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause long-term damage to the feet.”

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