Detroit Treads Shoes Made Possible Thanks to 3D Scanning

You know we like to keep up with the latest innovations using 3D scanning technologies, so it’s no surprise that we just had to share information about Detroit Treads shoes when we came across this story. Last week, the aforementioned shoes were on display at an area of the University of Michigan called Work • Detroit that was designed to show off creative work from the community.

It actually all began back in 2011 in an Integrated Product Development class at the University. Since then, Detroit Treads has soared past any first expectations. Neil Zemba is the designer for the startup and what makes this so interesting is he based his design on a 3D model of a human foot. Yes, he used 3D scanning to get the perfect design for these shoes.

Let’s talk tech. Zemba first used a Kinect to scan in the images of a foot. Then he switched over to the HandyScan laser scanner. This was a good choice because the latter is a professional product designed for this very sort of function. He used some pressure graphs that other shoe companies like Jordan and Nike had made to thoroughly understand how the foot falls on the ground and what areas of the foot require the most support.

From there, he designed shoe molds, one for the insole and one for the outsole. He used a rapid prototyping machine to create them in the 3D Lab. It’s unusual for there to be two molds in a shoe–one that cradles the foot and one that has the treads that touch the ground. Still, this is a unique shoe since it relies so heavily on 3D scanning to be made. It looks very much like a standard sandal but it encapsulates the very best of Detroit history by containing real rubber from tires. In fact, Detroit Treads works with Cass Community Social Services to pick up tires that have been abandoned by the side of the road in Detroit, then sends them to Entench, Inc, a company that specializes in tire recycling.

From there, a mixture of tire and polyurethane is poured into the shoe molds and a seatbelt sandal strap is placed between them. This shoe is truly unlike any other and it brings 3D scanning to the forefront, yet again, which is great for all of us technology innovators and lovers out there.