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Selective laser sintering during development of plans for production. Image credit: Footprint FootwearSizing shoes may become more customizable than ever before when a 3D printing startup begins exploring the science of footwear.

Read more: Five Reasons to Integrate 3D Printing Into Product Development

Footprint Footwear will be making its debut at the GDS Fair in Dusseldorf, Germany. With their 3D printing process, people can scan their feet in order to create unique, point-specific support structures made using algorithmic pattern generation.

Footprint Footwear grew out of a graduate student project: Matthew Flail worked on it at Philadelphia University. The idea is to make the ultimate customizable shoes, preventing improper fit.

These won’t be disguised to look like traditional shoes: the 3D-printed weave forms an organic-looking shell around the outside of the one-piece inner mold. The shell both cradles and elevates the foot. The printed mold is extruded using Ninjaflex filament, which offers the flexibility and toughness the shoes require.

Printing will also reduce the amount of waste that is generated when today’s shoes are made, the Footprint website says.

So far, the startup has tested several different production options. The first proof of concept models were made with Ninjaflex filament using fused deposition modeling. This worked well to simulate the look and feel of rubber, and it had the kind of compression and flex characteristics which could compete with advanced shoe foam.

Further testing on a with a Stratasys Polyjet printer produced strong, durable, rubber-like material that simulated the closed-cell foam structure the company was looking for, but its support material couldn’t be removed

Now, production takes place on a selective laser sintering machine from 3DSystems, using DuraForm FLEX Nylon powder. It’s light, and more similar to foam than the other materials that were tested. The compression and flex characteristics match what the company thought was necessary for shoes, and post-processing allows for enhanced durability. The cell patterns in the midsole also underwent design changes and various iterations.

Footprint Footware will be on display at GDS Fair on July 29-31.

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