In recent months the volume of texts and phone calls I get from my nearest and dearest has increased quite significantly. The volume increase of my digital communications is almost entirely due to the parallel increase in media coverage of 3D printing: “Have you seen [this or that]? It’s about 3D printing!” Ususally accompanied by an emoticon or similar. The latest one, a first, was from my mother-in-law, asking if I had seen the Daily Mail on Saturday. I dutifully nipped out & bought a copy, not necessarily expecting to write about it, more to score a few daughter-in-law brownie points. To be honest, my last encounter with the Daily Mail and 3D printing — the idiotic reporters that printed a gun from the infamous DEFCAD files & jumped on the Eurostar with it (minus all the dangerous bits) — did not bode well, but, I was pleasantly surprised.
I spent a rather agreeable quarter of an hour reading Lydia Slater’s full-page article “Move over Jimmy Choo! How I made my own shoes on a 3D printer.” Despite a somewhat deceptive headline (she didn’t make them or even print them herself), it was a surprisingly well balanced epistle — Lydia competently dispels the myths of instant 3D printed gratification (her shoes took over 24 hours to print): “Bang goes my vision of objects materializing out of thin air in seconds the way they do on Star Trek.”
Similarly, the article imparts how design modifications are necessary to achieve fit-for-purpose functionality: “they’re not exactly what I’d envisaged: the back of the shoe is missing (the designers felt the rigid plastic might give me blisters), the base of the heel is much wider and flatter than we’d originally designed, and a couple of struts run between the sole and the heel, all to add extra support.”
Regardless of the negatives, Lydia’s article is upbeat, and what makes it so is her desire for and excitement about customization — undoubtedly the greatest potential that 3D printing offers consumers. Lydia is obviously taken with the this aspect and a fan of the attention it brings her: “All eyes lower towards my feet … this is a swanky bash with a glamorous guest list …. but tonight I am quietly confident …. For although my dress isn’t haute couture by any standards, I can be completely sure my shoes are unique, bespoke — a complete one-off in fact.”
Lydia was in fact a contributor in the concept development of her personalized shoes and sketched her ideas out, however, as she was “lacking the technical know-how to transform a hazy mental vision into a printable design,” she proceeded to take advantage of her local 3D printing store — iMakr in London. For the (wo)man on the street, this is by far the easiest and ultimately most painless way to take advantage of 3D printing today — utilising the expertise and experience of trained people (online or in person) to materialize customized products with 3D printing. Both of these qualities are still a vital component for 3D printing success.
At iMakr Lydia met and spoke with the shop’s founder, Sylvain Preumont and was subsequently introduced to iMakr designer Gianmarco Colalongo, who used his 3D CAD design skills to create the digital model of Lydia’s shoes.
One of the most notable factual errors in the article around 3D printing was a reference to an unnamed consumer 3D printer for more than £3000 “that can print in several colours simultaneously.” It is important to understand that this is not possible with this type of machine — at least not yet. These machines — the Cube X range from 3D Systems which are on show and for sale via the iMakr store, and shown in the Mail article imagery — can print in multiple colours (two or three) by virtue of interchangeable extruders, but the coloured materials can only be printed one at a time — there is no colour mixing and they are definitely not printable at the same time.
Any how, back to the shoes, and for this particular pair, the end result is no Jimmy Choo, despite the headline — and they certainly doesn’t make me go “ooooooo” with a sharp intake of breath or make my eyes pop. They are, afterall, made of plastic, printed on an entry-level 3D printer and look uncomfortable. But they are intriguing, they are eye-catching and they are wholly bespoke. All because they were 3D printed — and that’s the value of 3D printing with entry-level printers right now.
The general consensus from people only looking at the shoes (in the comments) are not quite so forgiving though. The people that ‘get’ 3D printing, however, do an excellent job of pointing to the future!
Source & Image Credit: Daily Mail