Why Aesthetic Design Is Important For Footwear

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.

Marilyn Monroe is right, but only half right, because this statement applies to all of us. When it comes to footwear, majority of us would be attracted by the¬†aesthetic design first, then followed by trial to check whether we’re feeling comfortable after wearing the shoe.

Some might have different considerations such as brand, trendiness, or even some other factors, but the trigger point to all this is always the shoe design. When was the last time you bought shoes without looking at the design?

With status, identity and images come into place, no one would want to wear something that doesn’t represent themselves. This is a typical consumer purchasing process.


Why Aesthetic Design Is Important?

Imagine this, you’re walking into a footwear retail store with your girlfriend, and she is looking for a pair of sneakers, which she doesn’t have an idea how exactly that look like, yet.

You both walk through dozens of stores, took a break at ChaTime, and continued shopping.

After a whopping 5 hours, you caught a glimpse of shimmering light from her eyes, she said “Hey that sneaker looks good!”

You were happy, grateful and excited, not before long another shocking news hit you – “It doesn’t feel too comfortable. Let’s move, there is nothing more to see here.”

This is my real life experience and I know many of us might face the same scenario. So how does this impact shoemakers?

If the shoe is not designed aesthetically enough, it won’t pique interest of people. What’s more, if it is too aesthetically designed but¬†human ergonomics is ignored, you can’t sell either.¬†


How Nike used 3D Printing To Face This Challenge.


Nike Innovation Director – Shane Kohatsu told Financial Times this:

Within six months we were able to go through 12 rounds of prototype iterations that we fully tested, and ultimately we were able to make super dramatic improvements to our products.

This is how Nike & Adidas uses 3D printing to conduct design experiments, to fully understand how to integrate between design elements, ergonomics and functionality. Take, for example, Nike Vapor Leash Talon was designed¬†to¬†help the nation’s top football athletes maintain their drive stance longer as they train for and compete in the 40-yard dash. Adidas was reported at bringing down the typical prototyping duration from four to six weeks down to two days.

The best thing about 3D printing is it allows you to print and test on demand, this speeds up the traditional design and manufacturing process by leaps and bounds.


Our Own 3D Printed Shoe.

We actually designed and printed a “leather” shoe on our own, it was printed via Polyjet¬†with a combination of rubber and rigid materials to control the shore value (a.k.a rubber hardness).

Look at the fine surface texture. It was printed in a go, no assembly, no gluing.

As of now, we’re not there yet in terms of directly 3D printing the shoe for daily use, yet. But if we’re talking about design iterations and¬†form, fit study, then yes, 3D printing is a very good fit for R&D companies.





3D Printed Optics Inspired by Disney Research


Inspired by Disney‚Äôs Research & Development team for their 3D printed optics, we’ve designed a 3D printed light pipe block to experiment on¬†light travelling across by using VeroClear¬†from Objet500 Connex3. This light pipe block uses the light travelling theory such as the deflection theory, theory of light intensity and the optics theory. Here is what we did:

#1 Developing A Technical Drawing

Upon reviewing the optical test made by Disney’s Research & Development team, we made several adjustments to our design. The block was designed to have an approximation base of 7.4cm, 7.3cm for its width and 1.9cm for its height(actual finish part). This gives us a clearer view of the light intensity and the travelling limits that light can pass thru.

Block Dimension

  • Height : 20mm
  • Base ¬† : 80 mm
  • Width : 80 mm
Ring Dimension

  • Outer ring: 2.5R
  • Inner ring: 2.45R
  • Tolerance: 0.025R

Once the favorable dimensions has been determined, curved tubes were drawn which were designed to embed within the block. We tested 8 curved tubes which were designed from one face and swept to the other rectangular face of the block, leaving a few centimeter gap from the tail of the tube, whilst the head touches the first rectangular face of the block.

3D Printed Light Pipe - Technical Drawing

The trick that allows the light travel through the ring in the block actually is the tolerance between the outer & the inner ring. When this was part printed by the Polyjet technology machine, the tolerance between that two ring will printed with full of support materials that allow light to travel.

#2 Sanding & Polishing Techniques

Upon completion of printing, we used a high speed water jet machine to remove the support material. Once it is cleaned, the block is sanded using several types of abrasive sandpapers. Once the surface of the block has been smoothed, the block is then polished using a polishing liquid. The final product would be a clear block with embedded tubes.

3D Printed Light Pipe Block - Before After

The light effects were tested using laser pointers and built-in torch smartphones. The resulted light effects were visible at the tail of the curved tubes.

3D Printed Light Pipe - Light Illumination

Noticed how the light dots are appearing at the 3rd pipe?

Key Takeaways

Results were not as perfect as what was shown on Disney’s light path block video but from this experiment, we can conclude that the Stratasys Polyjet printers are able to develop a clear object that can match the reflective capabilities of a mirror.