It should come as no secret that one of the major benefits of 3D printing is its ability to customize. Indeed, this is one of its major values in not only consumer goods but also the medical sector as it allows for the creation of parts that are fully adapted to each user. This has also been the case for 3D printed footwear, with numerous brands, including leaders in the industry like adidas and Reebok, getting behind the technology. And now, it could be easier than ever. Zellerfeld, the company behind many of these 3D printed shoe projects, has announced the launch of its open beta 3D printed footwear platform.
As mentioned, Zellerfeld is no stranger to 3D printing shoes. The company works on the idea of providing 3D printed footwear for users that is 3D printed to your feet, fully recyclable and factory-free, for an overall more sustainable process. Each shoe is not only custom fitted to the shape of your feet thanks to a scan from your phone, but machine washable thanks to the 3D mesh material, made from sustainable materials by automated production (eliminating the need for overseas factories). It is perhaps these features that have endeared the company to so many major shoe brands, such as Danish outwear brand Rains which collaborated with Zellerfeld with their ‘Puffer Boot‘ which walked the Paris Fashion Week runway, or their collaboration with Heron Preston.
And though they may seem like buzzwords, eliminating the need for overseas factories and improving sustainability will help address two of the largest issues in the clothing and footwear industry. For example, the clothing industry is infamous for using overseas factories, often in lower-income countries such as Bangladesh. Moreover, with the rise of ‘fast fashion,’ where the latest trends require people to change their clothing almost every season requiring low prices from stores like H&M, the exploitation of people in those countries is increasing. Workers are underpaid and work in dangerous conditions, leading often to tragedies such as the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse which resulted in the death of 1,124 workers, the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history as well as the deadliest garment factory disaster in history. And reports suggest that human rights violations are only increasing. By turning to automated, localized production, 3D printing could help eliminate this issue.
Sustainability is also a concern. And though “sustainable” fashion is growing in number, the fact remains that often it is hard to find brands that are fully sustainable and the fashion industry remains the second most polluting in the world, after oil. Notably, with 87% of materials used to make clothing ending up in landfills according to TheRoundup. Once again, 3D printing could play a key role in helping this. Zellerfeld in particular promises that its products are not only made of sustainable materials and free of harmful textiles, rubbers and leathers, but can be recycled, as customers can return old pairs when getting new versions. Now with this latest announcement, even more people will have access to 3D printed shoes, giving them a viable alternative.
Opening the 3D Printed Footwear Open Beta Platform
Prior to this, Zellerfeld operated on a closed beta program, giving only selected tested access in order to gather valuable feedback on its 3D printed footwear. However, thanks to a new $15M seed round, led by Founders Fund, they are now opening this beta program to the general public, giving anyone access to 3D printed footwear. The company notes that customers will be able to select any of the 15 exclusive designs, including those from leading brands like Heron Preston, KidSuper and KITTY. Though the designs will be released in limited qualities, it still feels like a major step forward for the footwear industry.
Cornelius Schmitt, Co-Founder and CEO of Zellerfield concludes, “We’re excited to partner with Founders Fund, which will help us revolutionize the footwear industry. The funding will enable us to continue to innovate on our proprietary technology and to expand our platform to reach more designers and consumers globally. With our contrarian approach to footwear manufacturing, we are especially proud that our technology is now backed by Founders Fund, a partner we deeply admire for regularly playing pivotal roles in funding core technology projects that reshape our present society and future.” You can see the shoes for yourself on Zellerfeld’s website HERE.
Author: Madeleine P.