The world of footwear is subject in recent times to renewal in the sign of sustainability and the number of projects that use recycled materials like the PET of plastic bottles, or renewable materials like wood, wool, and cotton, are multiplying. There are also realities that make research onto sustainable processes both in the company and in the supply chain a priority.

On this last front, it’s worth highlighting the innovative experience of Native Shoes, a Canadian brand that in the past has already created footwear from plants and recycled materials. Today, the brand presents Liquid Printed Shoes, a futuristic and innovative method of production based on 3D printing. Developed in collaboration with the MIT Self-Assembly Lab and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, this patented method of 3D printing allows two of Native Shoes’ most popular designs – Audrey flat shoes and Jefferson sneakers-, to be produced on demand.

Liquid Printed Natives seem to magically emerge from a bath of liquid gel: black and bright, they have a smooth and solid look. First, they are designed using a computer, then they are directly printed in a container with a reusable water-based gel formula. The finished shoes that emerge do not have any excess material and they do not require support of any kind. The 3D printing also allows for customisation and currently under development is a technology that will allow a 3D scan of the foot to be done either at the store or via an APP, so customers can then send their orders.

The material used for the 3D printing is 50% recycled EVA, a higher percentage than what is allowed by traditional injection moulding. Production times take slightly longer than direct injection (2 hours and 40 minutes), but since the product is much faster to market, it compensates for these longer times. However, the real added value is provided by the adoption of a made-to-order model that allows Liquid Printed Shoes to be sold without having to create excess inventory that might just end up sitting in the warehouse.