In the world of fashion, 3D scanning and printing offer the potential for creating made-to-measure clothing. Customers of New Zealand-based footwear firm Three Over Seven will be able to scan their feet with a smartphone app and have a custom pair of shoes produced and delivered.
Three Over Seven already produces a line of innovative woolen running shoes, which are specifically designed for jogging, so that wearers need not wear both socks and shoes. The Wool Runners, which were funded by a Kickstarter campaign, are manufactured using mid-micron New Zealand sheep's wool, with a patent-pending process that makes the material suitable for use as a shoe upper. Three Over Seven told Gizmag that the fabric took two years to develop, with the help of a grant from the New Zealand wool industry funding organization WIRL and from textile institute AgResearch.
According to the company, the synthetic fibers most commonly used in shoes actually increase body odor because they create a breeding ground for bacteria. Wool, meanwhile, does not retain odors and will freshen just from airing out. It reduces the opportunity for odors to develop by quickly absorbing sweat and evaporating it into the air. Wearers benefit from comfort, regulated temperature and a lower propensity for the shoes to smell.
Following a frustrating process getting the Wool Runners produced, Three Over Seven wanted to find a new means of creating their products. The company plans to use 3D printing to allows its customers to receive tailor-made shoes within 24 hours and is expecting to have a digital shoe factory up and running in London some time this year.
Jonathon Spanos, of Three Over Seven, says that, while 3D scanning and printing has been used to disrupt the orthotic insoles market (as with Sols, for example), they haven't yet made any great impact on the footwear market. Spanos explains that the Three Over Seven team has been working with the idea of 3D printing footwear for a while and feels that it is now in a position to bring this technology to the market.
"The gateway for that process, and the core of its value proposition in our opinion, is a customized shoe," says Spanos. "The key underlying theme of our work here is that custom fit footwear is currently a luxury few can afford and we think 3D printing will help make that feeling, and associated comfort, more accessible to the wider public."
It's this concept that saw Three Over Seven named as one of the winners of the Virgin Media Business Three New Things competition recently. The contest aimed to find new technologies with the potential to change the lives of those who use them. The three winners were selected by a panel of tech experts from around 100 entries and Three Over Seven also won the People's Choice award, which was voted for by the audience at the competition's award ceremony.
The company wants to optimize every part of its manufacturing process by making an app that is intuitive and simple to use, by offering customized shoes and by working with high-quality material. "Studies show that two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women have different sized feet," says Spanos. "The idea we can create custom solutions for this market is hugely exciting."
Three Over Seven is in the process of manufacturing the Wool Runners to meet its initial (wildly successful) Kickstarter campaign. Shipping is expected in June with the firm aiming to have commercial production facilities ready from later this year.
The video below provides an introduction the the Wool Runners Kickstarter campaign. The campaign has now ended, but the video still gives a nice overview of the shoes.
Source: Three Over Seven