Will shoe shopping become a thing of the past? It might, if consumers opt to get their footwear 3-D printed.
Feetz, a San Diego-based start-up, is working to make it possible for people to purchase customized footwear by 3-D printing shoes based on customers' specifications.
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A customer would snap three pictures from different angles of each foot then send the images to Feetz. The company would enter the images in specialized software so that a shoe for each foot could be printed off and mailed to the customer, who'd get them in seven days.
Shoe manufacturing is a perfect fit for 3-D printing technology because feet are unique, and printing shoes allows for extreme customization, said Lucy Beard, the founder and CEO of Feetz, at the 3D Printshow New York.
"So many people have feet problems because one foot is bigger than the other or the shoes just don't fit their feet right," Beard said. "But if you print a shoe just for that foot, it's going to be so comfortable, you're not going to want to take it off."
Beard said that in the short-term her target consumers are those who have orthopedic problems because customizing shoes could benefit them the most, initially.
"I want to solve that need and that pain for those people," she said. "3D-printing shoes for them is really a simple solution that could solve a lot of their problems."
So far, in the consumer market, 3-D printing has been used to create mostly things like small trinkets, phone cases and jewelry. But as printers are increasingly able to use more materials, the machines can print a wider variety of products, she said.
The technology has already started to be adopted by some in the shoe industry, she said.