A handful of sports brands have started 3D printing sneakers, but MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab is already taking the idea a step further. By using a newly-developed textile technology, the group has developed the Minimal Shoe: a sneaker that’s custom printed for every wearer’s unique pair of feet. The process behind the Minimal Shoe is key, since it allows designers to stretch and print materials into a flat textile that snaps into any custom shape when cut loose from its frame.
The idea for the Minimal Shoe came about when the Self-Assembly Lab team was invited to design a unique footwear technology display for the London Design Museum’s “Life on Foot” exhibition. “Imagine using active materials to produce one-size-fits-all shoes, adaptive fit, and self-forming manufacturing processes. This technique would radically transform the production of footwear forever,” the group said in a statement. The Self-Assembly Lab has high hopes for the still developing technology. The 3D printing process behind the form of the Minimal Shoe is just one example of the ways that “active” materials simplify complicated design procedures. Research into these kinds of programmable materials could also be applied to furniture design, product manufacturing, and shipping.