3D Printing

‘Shoetopia’ Project Makes Sneakers Sustainable with Biodegradable Footwear, 3D-Printed on Demand

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The sneaker world has long been dominated by big brands, so, Polish design students Barbara Motylińska and Zuza Gronwicz set out to propose an alternative, more sustainable model for the production and distribution of footwear. With around 20 billion pairs of shoes produced each year, and 300 million pairs thrown out annually, the duo set out to create a sustainable production chain that wouldn’t do quite so much damage to our planet, using 3D-printing techniques. 


The duo created a sneaker prototype from biodegradable materials alongwith a customizing wizard.

With their ‘shoetopia’ project, Motylińska and Gronwicz created an design for a biodegradable sneaker, that can be modified via an app. The personalized design is then transformed into a print file, which can be sent directly to a local 3D printing center or private printer owner. the concept reinvents the wheel by reducing waste due to over production, and puts the customer in the driving seat by letting them request exactly the design they want.

The sustainable shoe can be 3D printed at any workshop.

The prototype shoe is constructed from flexible, biodegradable filament and natural textiles. In the search for a way of strengthening the textile upper, the duo cracked how to directly 3D print the filament onto the material. In turn, the technique meant the whole shoe design can be constructed without even using glue, making it both more environmentally friendly and durable.

The duo cracked a way to 3D-print directly onto textile

The prototype design is transferred into a preset algorithm, meaning that anyone can design and customize it without having special shoemaking skills. The online design wizard even comes with a foot measuring application, meaning the shoes are printed to a perfect fit.

The app includes a foot-measuring tool for a perfect fit

A 3D-print pattern can be downloaded via the app

The shoe can be easily customized without specialist shoemaking skills

3D-printing onto a textile base.

The algorithm can be easily manipulated for different designs.

All parts used in production are biodegradable

*This story first appeared on Design Boom

How Fashion Brands Can Help Turn the Tide on Ocean Pollution

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By Clara Le Fort

Against the backdrop of the COP21 climate summit, Adidas’ collaboration with Parley for the Oceans to create 3D-printed sneakers made from ocean waste sets an example for other brands.

Adidas 3D-printed ocean plastic sneakers | Source: Adidas

“No one wakes up in the morning saying, ‘I’m going to destroy the oceans.’ No one does, but collectively, we put them at risk,” says Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans, a US-based non-governmental organisation that aims to raise awareness of the planet’s critically endangered ocean ecosystems — and what can be done.

To coincide with the COP21 climate summit in Paris, Parley for the Oceans has teamed up with global sportswear giant Adidas to develop an innovative footwear concept called Ocean Plastic. With a 3D-printed midsole, the sneakers are made entirely from materials created using reclaimed ocean waste, such as discarded plastic and illegal gill nets that harm marine life.

“The 3D-printed Ocean Plastic shoe midsole stands for how we can set new industry standards if we start questioning the reason to be of what we create,” says Eric Liedtke, a member of Adidas Group’s executive board. While the shoe is only a prototype, Parley for the Oceans and Adidas hope it will set an example for the industry to rethink their design and manufacturing processes, and help stop ocean plastic pollution. “The industry can’t afford to wait for directions any longer,” he adds.

Each year, around 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans, according to a study published in the journal Science in February earlier this year, a figure that could increase tenfold in as many years if action isn’t taken. And because petroleum-based plastics are designed to last, the waste won’t break down for decades. “Plastic is a design failure. Once it is produced it never dies,” continues Gutsch. “How can we redesign plastic to make it harmless? How can we turn the problem into an opportunity?”

In the context of the fashion industry, a project called Raw for the Oceans illustrates the kinds of solutions that can help. Jointly launched by denim brand G-Star Raw and Bionic Yarn, the eco-friendly label co-founded by Pharrell Williams, with support from Gutsch and Parley for the Oceans, Raw for the Oceans is a collaborative project that collects ocean plastic and turns it into denim. And the fact that the jeans produced through this initiative are environmentally-friendly actually makes the product more appealing, says Gutsch. “It was desirable because it was designed to help save the oceans. There was a sense of exclusivity around it, but it didn’t cost more…That’s when it becomes relevant.”

The fashion industry is in a unique position to address the problem of ocean pollution, says Gutsch. “Fashion is at the crossroads of consumerism and innovation; it is able to communicate messages others can’t address. It’s a strong vehicle of change.” Since its inception, Raw for the Oceans has recovered about 2 million plastic containers from ocean coastlines around the world. “But we need to reach a critical mass to make a real difference. When I first heard that the oceans were about to collapse, I had no idea. Yet, I contributed to it as a consumer.”

Take e-commerce, which has grown rapidly in the past few years. How many people realise that e-commerce is a major source of pollution in fashion? In part, that’s because every single item shipped, even the smallest, must be individually wrapped in plastic.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, containers and packaging accounted for 30 percent of total solid waste generated in the US in 2012. And this figure is undoubtedly set to rise with growing global e-commerce sales.

In 2014, protective packaging reportedly represented a $22 billion industry, with plastic foam alone valued at $6 billion, as millions of products are constantly revolving around the planet, waiting to be sold online. Not only do they consume fossil fuel, but if the customer sends the item back, the ecological impact doubles.

“Products have become messengers of the era we live in. We can only change something if we establish a new standard, and steer suppliers and manufacturers in the right direction,” says Gutsch, pointing to projects like Adidas new sneakers as examples of this. “It’s in the hands of the creative communities to make a change. It’s not the consumer’s fault.”

In turn, Parley has also launched a new sustainability scheme — A.I.R. (short for avoid, intercept, redesign) — which provides guidelines that any fashion business or consumer can follow, beginning with everyday choices, like avoiding using plastic, intercepting to help manage waste and redesigning and reinventing to explore alternative solutions.

“The only way to move forward, in the future, would be to produce on demand,” says Gutsch, citing 3D printing methods as a sensible alternative. But there are other sustainable solutions: consuming less, creating products that have a longer life expectancy or mimicking nature to develop products that disintegrate.

*This story first appeared on the Business of Fashion.

Electroloom Builds the World’s First Desktop 3D-Printer for Clothes

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Photos by Daniel Morris

The idea behind the Electroloom is to make it even easier for anyone to become a designer, which would in turn mean less waste in clothes production and items would have a smaller carbon footprint. Sounds too good to be true? With this advanced 3D fabric printer the Electroloom team say that in order to design and create seamless fabric items all you would need is the Electroloom and a bit of CAD know how. The team developing this technological feat are three engineers who have established an electrospinning process that makes even an amateur be able to become part of their “community and design ecosystem”. They dub this Field Guided Fabrication, whereby just following three steps – designing a mold in CAD, put it in the Electrloom and watch it work its magic! – and anyone can design and make items, translating as less waste fabric in the long run. Their Kickstarter campaign is underway to turn this possibly anti-waste revolution into a reality. Here is Electroloom’s Joseph White speaking with Ecouterre about the sustainable potential of the 3D printer.

What inspired the Electroloom concept?

Really, the Electroloom started as a conversation about the future. It was a “what if” kind of thought—what if we could print our clothes and anyone anywhere could be in control of the design of their clothing?

Electroloom began with a question: What if we could design and print our own clothes?

From there it grew into something that was constantly on our minds about how we actually might be able to do it until we eventually came up with a way we thought would work and started building it.

Who are you targeting with your Kickstarter campaign?

This campaign is not yet a product. We’re looking for early adopters to begin to experiment with our technology in a very early stage.

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Does Electroloom have a sustainable story to tell?

There’s a lot of waste in the textile industry. Electroloom has the potential to reduce the impact of this waste in a variety of ways. We’re still in such an early stage, however, so a lot of this is still speculation for us.

There are fascinating ideas around dramatically reducing the amount of waste that goes into the fabric-manufacturing process because we’re able to go from raw material directly to finished good.

Electroloom could potentially reduce the amount of fabric waste in the garment industry.

We’re able to reduce the carbon emissions of shipping various components of the textile creation process because it occurs in a single step with Electroloom.

Again, there are many ideas here, but it’s hard to say how close we will be to these because we are still in an R&D stage of development.

Will Electroloom usher an age of democratic fashion design?

A lot of people talk about this idea, and it’s definitely an exciting one. I think our big vision is one that includes the freedom for anyone to design clothing and share it with the world.

Our technology isn’t quite there, but it’s one of the things we’re definitely interested in and working on.

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You say you want people to experiment with the technology in order to further develop it. How do you envision Electroloom evolving?

We want to explore, via our developers, what the limits of our technology really are. We’ve done a lot of experimenting ourselves, and we like some ideas we’ve come up with on how our devices can be used. But we know how creative people can be when given access to new creative outlets and freedom to design.

We imagine optimizing our future iterations around what our developers are most interested in, where they see the most value, and what works the best with our early machines.

The main ingredient in Electroloom’s prototyping material is biodegradable.

Do you plan to use more eco-friendly materials?

This is already an area we’re very conscious of. The main ingredient in our current prototyping material is biodegradable, and our materials engineer is hard at work to create blends that rely on water as a main constituent, rather than any harsher chemicals.

Electroloom on Kickstarter


**This post first appeared on Ecouterre.com here.