Vivobarefoot and Balena create 3D printed shoe from compostable materials

They’ve unveiled a prototype trainer that they said “represents a significant leap towards sustainable and personalised footwear”.It comes after news from Puma in November that the sports giant had proved it can “successfully turn an experimental version of its classic Suede sneaker into compost under certain tailor-made industrial conditions” following a two-year-long Re:Suede experiment.

Clearly, sustainability is hotting up in the footwear segment and material science is at the heart of this.Vivobarefoot/Balena’s innovation has just been presented at the materials conference Biofabricate. They said the 3D-printed shoe is made entirely from compostable materials.  Termed ‘scan-to-print-to-soil’ by the firm, the product introduces a fully automated process where users can scan their feet on their phones, initiating an automatic 3D-printing of shoes tailored to their individual foot shape.This makes the shoe the world’s first 3D-printed and locally-made-to-measure footwear that’s fully compostable. Key to this is Balena’s BioCirflex compostable, bio-based, recyclable, thermoplastic material.Vivobarefoot co-founder Asher Clark said: “The world doesn’t need new shoes. We need a new system and new materials. This future is literally at our feet and this footwear will enable us to reconnect to nature, move as nature intended and return footwear to nature when you’re done.”Prototypes are being made using a patented scan-to-print computational design system that, if scalable, will “enable them to make on-demand footwear for individuals not mass markets”.  

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