Filaflex: Flexible 3D Printer Filament for Your Future Shoes
Why wait for your Marty McFly shoes of the future? You can 3D print your own futuristic shoes now! They may not have self-tying laces, which will probably be overpriced anyway, but they will be made from real sci-fi technology. All you’ll need is a bit of flexible filament. Thankfully, Spanish filament producer Recreus has both the designs and the materials to put the spring in your step.
Flexible filaments can be extremely tricky, clogging extruders or not sticking to printbeds, so Recreus has spent the past few months perfecting their 1.75 mm filament to be “the most flexible on the market”. To demonstrate the success of their work, the company has released the .stl files for the Sneakerbot II sneakers, the perfect product to show off some flexible feedstock. Ignacio Garcia, the company’s founder and designer of the shoes, tells me that, printed with a dual extruder and a combination of PLA and FilaFlex, the shoes offer the perfect balance of support and comfort. You can watch the shoe printed below. Fast foward to the end to see Sneakerbot’s rubbery characteristics.
Bathed in the 80’s nostalgia of films like Back to the Future II, the Sneakerbot II shoes are actually pretty cool looking. In order to print them, though, you may need a special extruder to ensure that the material can be adequately printed. For that reason, Recreus has also developed its own extruder and hot end. The stainless steel M6 barrel of the hotend contains a PTFE tube, meant for easier passing of the flexible filament to a .4mm nozzle. The new extruder body can be 3D printed and is designed so that the limp Filaflex filament doesn’t get tangled during printing.
Ignacio tells me that he works frequently with a Thingiverse designer who goes by Gyrobot. Gyrobot has been using the Filaflex to create such items as a Tie Fighter, flexible geometric shapes, and a plastic hand with Filaflex tendons. Applied to something from the Robohand project or maybe the InMoov robot and this material might be perfect for 3D-printed prosthetics or robot joints.
When I get the new extruder and filament, I’ll be printing these shoes faster than you can say, “Round the corner. Cafe 80’s. Guy named Griff. Just say ‘no’.”