Printing the Future of Footwear with Zellerfeld

A Design Revolution is Afoot

Digital Fashion

Jan 17

As part of our 33 Store collaboration with footwear designers Finn Rush-Taylor and Svet Abjo, we produced a physical pair of 33 Sneakers, created as a gift for long-term 33NFT supporter, Kim Logchies Prins.

These physical sneakers were manufactured by the pioneering shoe manufacturer, Zellerfeld, who use their proprietary 3D printing technology to bring digital footwear into the real world.

With sustainability considerations at the forefront of public consciousness, it is becoming clear that this quiet 3D printing revolution could be the prelude to a seismic cultural shift — 3D printing is going to turn sneaker culture on its head, and the 33 Sneaker is a perfect example of why this is the case.

Simplifying a Complex Design Process

To get a pair of sneakers from sketch to shelf using a conventional production workflow can take months. 3D printing simplifies this process to an extraordinary extent.

For the 33 Sneaker, Finn and Abjo were able to take their concept from sketch to finished design using a combination of 3D software, including Maya, Blender and Rhino. The finished 3D model was then sent directly to Zellerfeld for the printing process, which took approximately 48 hours to complete. Each shoe is printed as a single piece, produced using recyclable TPU, which highlights another key way in which this technology is changing the industry:

Sustainable Shoe Manufacture is in Sight

The manufacturing of footwear accounts for roughly 1.4% of global green house gas emissions (according to Quantis). 3D printing offers an alternative means for creation that not only eliminates the emission-heavy production stages, but also creates zero-waste products that can be recycled and reused multiple times.

Freshly printed 33 Sneakers by FRT and Svet Abjo, 2021.

Each printed shoe can be broken down and reused — when Kim’s 33 Sneakers are eventually worn out, she can return them, where the team at Zellerfeld will reuse the material to create a brand new pair of shoes.

This workflow brings the circular economic model within reach, and is likely to quickly establish itself as an industry-standard, particularly for experimental projects.

Which brings us to our final point:

Unlocking an Industry

The sneaker industry is notoriously difficult to break into, as producing shoes is generally very expensive. Companies like Zellerfeld will enable creatives to experiment without staking large sums of money, and designers with technical proficiency in free, open source software such as Blender, will be able to design and sample footwear in a matter of days, at a significantly reduced cost — in an interview, Cornelius Schmitt (the owner of Zellerfeld) disclosed that it costs as little as $5 in materials and energy bills to print a pair of custom sneakers.

This level of accessibility will allow creativity to flourish, as independent designers experiment without profitability concerns.

So What Does This all Mean?

The 33 Sneaker shows us that we are now at a stage where we can create bespoke footwear (designed to fit the human foot with the accuracy of a sock) that can be designed and produced significantly quicker, and at a dramatically lower financial and environmental cost, than ever before. 3D printing is part of the current technological wave (which includes NFTs and the blockchain) that is re-shaping how a creative vision is delivered.

Render of the 33 Sneaker, 2022.

We now live in an age where, over the course of a few days, we can design and print a pair of shoes for our friends, and that in itself, is a remarkable thing.