Main menu


Designing a 3D printed shoe using nTop

Written by Izzy de la Guardia

Published on October 26, 2020

Fast Radius had an internal design challenge to create a shoe that could be printed as one part using an elastomeric material on HP's Multi-Jet Fusion technology. They designed workflows within nTop as a way to explore the industrial design of the shoe. Read below for an in-depth understanding of how it was done.

As an Application Engineer at Fast Radius, I work with customers across industries - from consumer goods to aerospace - looking to embrace production-grade additive manufacturing (AM). 3D printing has enabled production of complex structures not previously achievable through conventional manufacturing processes. nTop is pioneering a new era of CAD software that can keep up with these advances, allowing designers to generate incredibly complex geometry quickly and easily. We have noticed that when customers have limited AM experience their minds are constrained by the limitations of traditional manufacturing methods like injection molding and machining. While each additive process also has inherent limitations, we aim to push ourselves and our customers to think beyond conventional design wisdom to drive functional and aesthetic innovation afforded by increased design freedom.

This can be illustrated through an internal design challenge my team had to create a sneaker that could be printed as one part using an elastomeric material on HP’s Multi-Jet Fusion technology. Our design workflow demonstrates how nTop can be a playground for industrial design exploration. We were able to quickly generate a wide breadth of design options for the various components of a shoe -- the tongue, shoe upper, midsole, and sole -- and try out different design permutations in a matter of minutes as opposed to the hours or days it would take with traditional parametric or mesh-based CAD software.

Design Space created in external CAD software.

nTop’s computational power shines in its ability to quickly generate tailored lattice structures. In one shoe upper design, we used spherical fields to drive cell spacing for a voronoi lattice. This technique allows designers to have deep control over both the aesthetics and functionality of their products.

Animation demonstrating how custom fields (light blue geometry) are used to manipulate Voronoi cell spacing.

nTop’s block-based interface makes it easy to try out different lattice and TPMS structures in a given design space. You can define variables such as cell size and beam thickness to easily edit your lattice. Because blocks are independent of each other and not a linear model tree, you can run the same geometry through different functions and not worry about having to start from scratch if you change your mind later.

Animation demonstrating the ease of editing lattice blocks in nTop.

Comparison of volume fraction of midsole after changing cell size.

Beyond structural lattices, nTop has a variety of features that allow complex manipulation of surfaces. We used several different methods to explore texturing the shoe sole. We created treads and traction by combining blocks in nTop’s architected materials toolkit. A more advanced, custom texture was generated by mathematically manipulating the surface of the design space using our company logo.

Sole created by combining noise and subtractive texture blocks.

Sole created using a sine wave field generated from our logo to offset the surface of the implicit body.

Once we generated a variety of options for each of the shoe components, we were able to toggle visibility on each of the components to visualize different design combinations. This is a game-changer for industrial designers who know the importance of rapid iteration and idea quantity to ultimately create a higher quality, more innovative final product.

To see these concepts in action, please check out my webinar on Tuesday, October 27 at 11 am ET. I hope it opens your minds to the incredible potential of nTop's advanced design capabilities. We have only scratched the surface of its capabilities, but we are excited to continue exploring and making new things possible with nTop.

Izzy de la Guardia

Izzy de la Guardia is an Application Engineer at Fast Radius, working with customers to identify value-add production opportunities for additive manufacturing, optimize their parts for the process, and ramp up to production. She studied Manufacturing and Design Engineering and Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University, which equipped her with a broad and holistic understanding of product design that allows her to engage customers throughout the development cycle, from commercial discussions to production.