While most of us understand the concept of 3D printing, you might be a little less familiar with 3d knitting. The ingenious technology allows you to three dimensionally create fabric items in a specialized loom. This means that an entire garment can be created at once with zero waste; it emerges from the loom as a complete garment. Not only is this amazing for the environment, it also results in more comfortable clothing, since they are seamless. From a designer’s perspective, 3D knitting means clothing can be prototyped in a fraction of the time (and cost) versus the tradition cut and sew approach. The technology isn’t new (it emerged in the 1990’s) but it is finally gaining traction thanks to reduced costs and advances in tech. In fact, one of the very first stories we covered was an open source 3D knitting machine called Open Knit.
A startup by the name of JS Shoes has launched a Kickstarter for what they claim are the world’s first 3D knitted shoes. The casual shoes are entirely created on the loom and emerge complete. Only a thin outer sole is added later. Because of the seamless design and custom-feeling fit, the makers say that a mid-sole is not necessary. Every shoe is knitted to order, allowing the customer to choose if they want the left and right shoes to be sized differently or even mismatched. The shoes were designed to comfortably take the wearer everywhere from a stroll on the beach, to a long drive, to around the house. Since they don’t have a lot of cushioning, the footwear is probably best for times where you would like to be barefoot but it is not practical to be. JS Shoes has already met their Kickstarter goal and plans to ship the knit shoes in May. Prices currently start at $89 a pair.
Nike has been using a similar technology to produce their FlyKnit sneakers. The footwear is pretty amazing – looking more like combination of a sock and traditional sneaker. The FlyKnit features a true mid-sole design though, this means there is extensive post-knitting construction that has to be done. I believe this is what makes the JS Shoes on Kickstarter so unique and allows them to claim to be the “first” entirely 3D knitted shoe. The technology is pretty amazing and has advanced very quickly in the 20-some years it has been around. Long term, it could revolutionize how garments are created – proving to be a win-win for the customer, manufacturer, and the earth!