If you’ve ever thought about 3D printing shoes, you’ll enjoy watching the video below about a Portland-based company creating shoes on demand using an HP MJF 5200 3D printer. it’s not a printer you probably have in your basement. The one-ton printer costs up to half a million dollars, but watching it do its job is pretty interesting.
The printer does not create the entire shoe, just a spongy foam-like TPU footbed and heel. They run the printer overnight and pull out a dozen pairs at a time. There is quite a bit of cleaning to prepare the room. Of course, there’s also the assembly of the rest of the shoe to consider.
One of the advantages of this approach is apparently the absence of waste. We didn’t know it, but apparently conventional shoes end up in landfills. These shoes are made to be recycled, and the company offers a discount to those who send in old pairs.
Of course, another advantage is the speed of production of new models. However, we wonder about the economics of using a printer that costs at least $300,000 to produce a dozen pairs of shoes a night. The shoes aren’t cheap – we hear they cost between $175 and $375 a pair, but they aren’t that expensive either. Our bad business calculations show that even if you could make 100% profit and have 0 ruined shoes, it would take decades to pay off one of these printers. Factoring in real costs, benefits, and other considerations pushes that number to hundreds of years. Still, maybe they rent the printer or share it, we’re not sure.
Want to go there? Try the digital shoe design kit. These shoes are quite stylish, but with 3D printing you can create anything you can imagine, even if it would make you look like a nerd.