3D Printing

Traditional Craftsmanship Combines with Modern 3D Printing for Innovative 3D Printed Shoe Design

South African and Inventor Hans Fouche is never not Making. He’s been doing it for some time, but, in the past month, his work has caught the eyes of media from all over when he 3D printed all of the exterior components for a working lawnmower, followed by a working vacuum cleaner (which interestingly doubled as a flower pot). Thanks to his large-scale Cheetah 3D printer, Hans is able to fabricate these sorts of large objects extremely quickly because, not only does the Cheetah have a large build volume, but, due to its big extrusion nozzle, it extrudes thick layers of material, sacrificing resolution for speed.

Before his recent lawnmower and vacuum designs, however, Hans had already printed some shoes. He tells me:

More than a year ago, I chatted with a very beautiful lady friend of mine, about her stiletto shoes. I asked her if I can borrow them for a while! I measured them up, redesigned them in CAD , and turned them into “wedges”…|I don’t want to have the thin heels of those stilettos breaking off. I printed them and posted them on my FB page on 26 April 2014, but nobody took notice…

Perhaps it was due to the crudeness of his Cheetah’s fast, but low-resolution, printing ability.  The comfort of 3D printed shoes isn’t an issue isolated to Hans’s design, as many 3D printed shoes appear to lack the same wear-ability of useable shoes, with a few exceptions.  It wasn’t until he partnered with a local shoesmith that Hans was able to make his custom shoes about as refined as mass produced counterparts.

Hans came up with the idea of, first, 3D printing shoe blanks, which can be custom made quickly with his Cheetah printer.  The blanks are then wrapped in leather, to make them comfortable and give them a polished look. He explains:

Then about 3 months ago, I saw a guy [named Mr. Azuka] that making sandals on a table on the pavement here in Kempton Park, where I live. I showed him the shoe blanks, but he was not happy with the size. I modified them and printed them again.  And they were laying around here for a while, until Kobus, my business partner, said last week, “Let’s take those shoes to Mr. Azuka.” One week later, I could not believe my eyes! That same evening I posted it on my FB page!

Hans reaction is quite understandable, when the incomplete, 3D printed shoes are placed alongside those finished off by Mr. Azuka.

hans 3D printed shoes wrapped in leather

While printing the pair seen in the picture took about an hour on the Cheetah, Hans believes that he could add more extruders to his machine, similar to his 8-armed chocolate printer, in order to speed up production.  With these extra exturders, Hans believes that he could print the same pair in just six minutes.

Hans has no specific plans to begin printing custom shoes, but he says that he and his business partner are looking into all of the big products made so far – the lawnmower, vacuum, and shoes, to see if it’s viable to create a company around any of them.  If you are interested in purchasing a Cheetah 3D printer for about $10.5k, you can contact Hans through the Facebook page for his company, Fouche 3D Printing.