Designer, Ammo Liao has created a shoe which uses “textile biomimicry,” i.e. a single material manipulated to provide multiple functions including varying levels of softness, strength, and flexibility in a layering process.
The BioKnit shoe was inspired by biomimicry(to synthetically replicate nature) and is produced by melting 3D printing textiles to create the necessary properties within the same textile-like materials. The process involves a 3D knitting process where polymer-base yarns are fed into an automated loom capable of creating various patterns in selected sections of the weave to enable flexibility and rigidity. According to the designer, the area of the shoe nearest the ankle might require more flexibility, where as the toe, heel, and arch sections require more rigid construction for support. The shoes are knitted in flat sections, then sewn together and heat pressed into their 3D printed soles. Prior to final assembly, the heel and toe sections are heat-pressed and laser engraved to accurately harden discrete section. Different colours and patterns are easily programmed into the loom and incorporated into the final weave. The designer believes creating the product with a single material will dramatically reduce the recycling cost of similar products which require multi-material construction. As additional benefits, he says the process will conserve natural resources and save energy and reduce greenhouse gases and the ensuing pollution.
In the UK alone approx. 330 million pairs of shoes sold each year with the majority ultimately ending up in a landfill. Experts estimate these will take 50 years to decompose.