Last month, we here introduced you to a Massachusetts man who 3D printed a prosthetic hand for his son. And now, it looks like the future of 3D printing may be going straight to your feet.
London designer and researcher Shamees Aden just introduced a concept for 3d printed running shoes that may put your favorite pair of kicks to shame. This new design, introduced at the Wearable Futures conference, is 3D printed from a synthetic biological material that will fit to the wearer’s feet. And the best news about these new shoes—they can repair themselves overnight!
The shoes, which Aden is developing with University of Southern Denmark professor Martin Hanczyc, are a product of his study of Protocells. Protocell molecules are not themselves alive, but can be combined to create living organisms.
The shoes’ unique construction allows them to be 3D printed to the exact size of the wearer’s foot, so they would fit almost like a second skin. It would almost feel like you were running barefoot—which might sound dangerous on hard pavement, but there’s more to these shoes than meets the eye.
By mixing different protocells together, developers have discovered that the cells have unique properties, allowing them to be programmed to behave differently depending on heat, light, and pressure. While running, the shoes would react to different pressures and movements of your body, and would respond by providing extra cushioning when needed.
“The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure,” Aden says. “As you’re running on different grounds and textures it’s able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.”
Now, here’s the best part about these shoes: they can actually repair themselves! At the end of a long run, these shoes are placed in a jar filled with living liquid protocells that would combine with cells inside the shoes, rejuvenating and keeping the cells healthy. It almost works like a recharger for your iPhone, reviving the cells for your next marathon session. And, as an added bonus, the liquid recharger can be dyed different colors, so the shoes can come in any color for the stylish runner.
According to Aden, the technology is nearly here, and these shoes could become a reality by as early as 2050. It’s a technology that is pushing the boundaries between living and nonliving organisms, as well as the testing the limits of 3D printing. With innovations like this, the future could be closer than we think.
Photo credit: Shamees Aden via the Guardian