MIT Labs 4D Printed a Self Assembling Shoe (Video)

4D printing takes 3D printing to an entirely different level, essentially enabling the product to assemble itself using materials that respond to a specific stimuli (say, temperature or moisture).

“4D Printing, developed as a collaboration between the Self-Assembly Lab, Stratasys and Autodesk, is a new process for printing customizable smart materials. 4D Printing entails multi-material prints utilizing the Stratasys Connex printer with the added capability of shape-transformation from one state to another, directly off the print-bed. This technique offers a streamlined path from idea to full functionality built directly into the materials, including; actuation, sensing and material logic.” – Self Assembly Lab

MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, directed by Skylar Tibbets, industrial designers Christophe Guberan and Carlo Clopath, created the minimal, ‘active shoe’ by 3D printing extruded plastic, using fused deposition modeling, in specific patterns onto a stretched fabric base. Once the fabric is released from it’s stretched position, it then transforms into a secondary shape. In this case, that shape being a super minimal shoe.

“[Minimal Shoe] is an active textile and it’s a work in progress,” Guberan says. “We can shrink the size of the shoe, have it contract around your feet. 3D printing [entire] shoes is quite long and inefficient, so we minimized the amount of 3D printing used. It’s quite interesting to say that we don’t have to 3D print the entire shoe, but we can add to existing material.”

You can imagine the possibilities for this technology could be pretty mind blowing. Utilizing the same production method with different materials and shapes that react to certain stimuli could create shoes that transform to our environment as we’re wearing them. Not to mention it could stream-line production lines and allow partially 3D printed footwear to enter the mass market.








Mr. Bailey

Product Designer + Footwear Architect | Founder of @ConceptKicks | Instagram @MrBailey_ |

Start the conversation