today is Jul 02, 2022

If you’ve ever thought about 3D printing shoes, you’ll enjoy watching the video below about a Portland-based company that creates shoes on demand using an HP MJF 5200 3D printer. Granted, this isn’t a printer you likely have in your basement. The one-ton printer costs up to a half-million dollars but watching it do its thing is pretty interesting.

The printer doesn’t create the entire shoe, but just a spongy foam-like TPU footbed and heel. They run the printer overnight and get about a dozen pairs out at once. There’s quite a bit of clean-up to get the piece ready. Of course, there’s also the assembly of the rest of the shoe to take into account.

One of the advantages of this approach is apparently the lack of waste. We didn’t know, but apparently conventional shoes wind up in landfills. These shoes are made to recycle and the company offers a discount to those sending in old pairs.

Of course, another advantage is the speed of producing new designs. 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 run from $175 to $375 a pair, but they aren’t that expensive, either. Our bad business math shows that even if you could make 100% profit and have 0 ruined shoes, it would take decades to pay back on one of these printers. Considering real costs, profits, and other considerations pushes that number into hundreds of years. Still, maybe they lease the printer or time share it, we aren’t sure.

Fancy a go? Try the Digital Shoe Design Kit. These shoes are pretty stylish, but with 3D printing, you can build anything you can imagine, even if it would make you look like a nerd.