Whether you call them flip flops, plakkies or thongs, these shoes are a summer staple across the world. Recently, the market for flip flops has become somewhat more interesting, with a small number of companies leveraging 3D printing and mass customization concepts to produce customer-tailored footwear. One of these companies, Retraction Footwear, comes from Australia, where flip flops are a footwear essential.
Retraction Footwear由澳大利亚工程师布雷特·卡森（Brett Casson）于2018年创立，他在过去两年中开发了可定制的3D打印触发器。从一开始，就有几个因素启发了Casson：其中一个是，他将3D打印视为将生产保持在澳大利亚本地的机会。其次，这意味着他有机会为客户创建可定制的产品。第三，3D打印使鞋子制造过程中材料浪费最少。今年早些时候，Retraction Footwear终于推出了3D打印鞋类产品。最近，我有机会试用了一双定制的3D打印凉鞋。请继续阅读以供我个人评论。
Retraction Footwear was founded in 2018 by Australian engineer Brett Casson, who has spent the past two years developing a customizable 3D printed flip flop. There were a few factors that inspired Casson from the beginning: for one, he saw 3D printing as an opportunity to keep production local within Australia. Second, it meant he had the opportunity to create customizable products for customers. And third, 3D printing enables the shoes to be made with minimal material waste. Earlier this year, Retraction Footwear finally launched its 3D printed footwear product. Even more recently, I had the opportunity to try out a pair of the custom 3D printed sandals. Read on for my personal review.
在展示我对实物产品的想法之前，我想带大家完成定制触发器的订购过程。对于大多数利用3D打印的量身定制的鞋类产品，采取以下两种方法之一：使用3D扫描或类似的生物识别技术来捕获脚的测量值，或仅用尺子以老式的方式测量脚。 Retraction Footwear选择了后者，从用户的角度来看，这确实使订购过程非常简单。
Step 1: The order
Before revealing my thoughts on the physical product, I want to take you all through the ordering process for the custom flip flops. With most tailor-made shoe products that utilize 3D printing, one of two routes is taken: using 3D scanning or a similar biometric technology to capture the foot’s measurements or simply measuring the foot the old fashioned way—with a ruler. Retraction Footwear has opted for the latter, which does make the ordering process pretty simple from the user perspective.
In terms of the sizing, customers can input three measurements: length of foot, width of foot and arch height. The last two options are still fairly standardized, with a choice between narrow, normal and wide, and flat, regular and high, respectively. In any case, a detailed sizing guide does make it easy to find which category you fall into, though I recommend having a ruler handy just to be sure. To determine the cushioning level of the sandal, clients also have to input their weight category.
With the sizing selected, you then choose your flip flop color combination, including sole color, foot bed color and strap color. Presently, the color options are fairly limited, but the ability to combine various colors is fun. The color options, as of writing, are black, white, green and red. As you can see, I’ve opted for a versatile black and white color scheme. From the customer side, that’s pretty much it! You then place your order and wait for the delivery.
尽管我无法直接看到人字拖的生产过程，但仍向我提供了有关该过程的详细说明以及所制作鞋子的独家视频剪辑。我会引导您完成。使用Retraction Footwear下订单后，将处理客户的选件并准备进行打印。 3D打印机从那里开始工作，将柔韧的细丝层沉积到打印床上，从鞋底到内部缓冲的格子再到鞋床来构造鞋子。最后，表带组件分别进行3D打印。
Step 2: The production
Though I wasn’t able to see the production of my flip flops first hand, I was provided with an in depth description of the process and an exclusive video clip of my shoes being made. I’ll walk you through it. Once an order has been placed with Retraction Footwear, the customer’s options are processed and prepared for printing. From there, the 3D printer gets to work, depositing layers of a flexible filament onto the print bed, building up the shoe from the sole, to the inner cushioned lattice, to the footbed. Finally, the strap component is 3D printed separately.
印刷过程本身是使用具有400 x 400毫米印刷床（可容纳较大的靴型）的经过大幅改进的Creality机器进行的。 Casson告诉我们，打印机已被转换为带有高端挤出机和热端的直接驱动器，从而提高了打印的整体质量。在材料方面，Retraction Footwear使用Ninjatek的NinjaFlex TPU细丝，该细丝在提供高度灵活性的同时仍保持坚固耐用。
The printing process itself is carried out using heavily modified Creality machines with 400 x 400 mm print beds (which can accommodate large shoe sizes). Casson tells us that the printers have been converted to direct drive with high-end extruders and hot ends, which improve the overall quality of the print. For material, Retraction Footwear uses Ninjatek’s NinjaFlex TPU filament, which offers a high degree of flexibility while still remaining strong and durable.
Once the printing is done, minimal post processing is needed: a Retraction Footwear employee simply sands down the bottom of the sole, and carefully inserts the strap and secures it with glue and a reinforcing bit. The finished product is then quality checked, packaged and shipped.
在环球旅行了几周后，我的Retraction拖鞋到达了我在蒙特利尔的家中。甚至包装都值得一提。 Retraction Footwear尚未决定将其产品运送到经典鞋盒中。不，而是将鞋子包装在装有3D打印端件的纸板管中，这使拆箱更加令人兴奋。
Step 3: The first try
After a few weeks traveling across the globe, my Retraction flip flops arrived at my home in Montreal. Even the packaging is worth mentioning. Retraction Footwear hasn’t settled to ship its product in a classic shoe box. No, instead it packages its shoes in a cardboard tube fitted with 3D printed end pieces—which made the unboxing all the more exciting.
My first impression was largely positive: the shoes looked just like I was expecting and the fit was great. The movement and toolpath of the 3D printer can still be seen on the surface of the flip flop. This texture (which to some might seem unfinished) is a footprint of the technological process that made it—a feature which I really like. The texture is also gradient, which lends a certain aesthetic appeal when viewed from close up.
As I ordered my soles in white, I was unsurprised to find that the shoes did not keep their pristine color for very long. But, thanks to the plastic nature of the shoe, they are easy to wipe down and clean, especially compared to more traditional foam flip flops.
In terms of comfort, the 3D printed flip flops are pretty impressive. As someone who spent many (many) years exclusively wearing Old Navy flip flops in the summer, it has been somewhat of a relief to not suffer from blisters within the first hours of wearing these custom ones. The lattice cushioning is distinctive compared to foam, and I don’t anticipate they will wear down as quickly.
I should also mention that the Retraction shoes are designed to have a thicker heel, which I think makes a positive difference for comfort. This is also supported (literally) by the customizable arch height, which hugs the bottom of the foot and offers more cushioning. The one thing I cannot speak to yet, but I will consider updating my review in future, is durability. So far, it seems like the cushioned lattice is pretty resilient (they are quite bouncy even), but I will see how they do after some more wear.
Conclusion: Not a flop
At a basic level, the flip flop’s simplicity makes it well suited for 3D printing. While most shoes require some sort of upper, flip flops are all sole (and a little bit of strap, of course). This not only makes them relatively straightforward to produce using 3D printing, but also helps customers to visualize exactly how the technology has been applied. That is, there is no hidden midsole: you can see on the surface how 3D printing has been used.
I’ve now been wearing my custom 3D printed flip flops, courtesy of Retraction Footwear, for about a week and I honestly can’t find much to complain about. They’re comfy, haven’t hurt my feet, have good arch support and have good grip. The sandals, which retail for $86 are available to order and can be shipped worldwide. Until August 31, 2020, the company is offering free international shipping.