Where building construction meets shoe fabrication

This past week we were recognized by Autodesk in one of their fabrication blogs. Autodesk’s Reality Computing blog entitled Where Building Construction Meets Shoe Fabrication highlighted the recent collaboration between OESH and Melissa Goldman’s The World is Flat class at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture (previous post here). For those unfamiliar with Autodesk, they are a software company which produces powerful computer programs used by designers in a wide variety of fields. At OESH, we have been using their Autodesk Fusion 360 in our latest shoe design and fabrication process (previous post here). Needless to say, making an appearance on an Autodesk blog, especially with our recent collaboration, is pretty exciting.

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Both the Autodesk Blog and our previous posts have highlighted the process of working with Melissa Goldman and her class. To recap: it was a semester long course where students worked in groups to design, develop, and print a wearable shoe. Within this, each student had their own research track, and for the second half of the semester, some groups researched materials, hacked tools, and created extruders for said material.

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OESH Designed & Fabricated Printer

As with many collaborations, the moment when there is a chance for reflection and evaluation is incredibly valuable. Without everyone explicitly saying it, it was apparent that most students, regardless of what material they were printing, realized that optimizing the design for the specificities of how the printer works was paramount. There are limits to printing, and therefore certain restraints needed to be adhered to. These restraints varied greatly based on printer and material (ie printing icing vs. printing concrete). Another great lesson learned by the students is the importance of a well-designed extruder. Regardless of printing filament, plastic pellets, concrete mixture, paper pulp, or cake icing, the actual material needs to pass through and out of an extruder in order to print. The precision of how the extruder is built must match the material being printed. There is often a fine line between what will and will not work, and it was great to see the students dealing with this challenge at multiple scales and with multiple materials.

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Student Designed Concrete Extruder

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Student Designed Icing Extruder on Robot

Another gratifying part of any design collaboration is seeing how each individual interprets the challenge. For instance, one student from outside the Architecture School commented, “at the Architecture School they create space, so I made a shoe with a space in it” (the “space” was in the heel and provided a place for a key or other small necessity). Another student produced a shoe which was a skeletal frame contoured to the foot where fabric could be woven in and out of to form enclosure. Students even produced designs to aid personal needs. There were many ideas, and though they were vastly different and with varying intentions, everyone faced the challenges of designing with the reality of fabricating in mind.

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Design & Image by Tori Amato

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Design & Image by Carl

The value of this collaboration could be seen in the students’ process of taking a design idea, modifying the tools to make it work, and physically producing the design. It is success such as this which makes us excited to continue the collaboration with the Architecture School into the fall. With Melissa’s help, Dr. Kerrigan will be heading an undergraduate design studio which will dive deeply into the value and challenges of 3-d printing footwear. The end goal of this second collaboration is to merge the creativity and experimental nature of students with the real world fabrication experience and research of Dr. Kerrigan in order to advance 3-d printing for healthy design.

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