A few years ago I developed BioWeb TN (Technical Nutrient), a concept of a 3 part athletic shoe that could be separated in 3 parts for easy recycling. Except the molded cage upper structure would mean very high mold costs.
However recent weaving innovation makes it possible to create a an external structural cage that is woven instead of molded. A Knit upper could also allow the Knit part to be turned inside out for use on the opposite foot.
What follows is a partial explanation of how the Modul-R modular woven footwear construction concept works.
An Advanced Footwear Design for Effective Recycling Separation
A few years ago I also discussed the book Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart, William McDonough and Stephen Hoye.
Soon after Nike released the advanced manufactured Nike Flyknit Racer and Adidas the Primeknit. Today this kind of knitted and environmentally positive upper construction has already been adopted by many companies around the world from Puma to Skechers and its rumored that the biggest Atheltic footwear companies are now building knitting facilities in the USA to manufacture athletic footwear locally.
But what about the recycling aspect?
If a knitted shoe is more environmentally friendly in the production stage, what about its disposal phase? Because currently knitted footwear, like all shoes cannot be dismantled into separate parts for recycling.
How can knitted construction be applied to make footwear even more environmentally friendly?
With an easily resolable, recyclable, or biodegradable DESIGN similar to this:
Where the upper is partially made from a knitted cage similar to the modular Nike ZVEZDOCHKA design by Marc Newson.
MODUL-R, Modular and Recyclable.
Made in a either 3D TUBULAR construction like a sock, or FLAT construction like a shoe upper.
This mechanically constructed concept not only requires little, or no glue, but is also WITHOUT the EXPENSIVE MOLD COSTS of injected/automated footwear construction and is relatively fast, simple and high tolerance/quality product to manufacture. The precise details of the mechanical attachment I am not disclosing because they are key to the realization of the design, but there are 3 different attachment methods that can be used.
A “Flat Pack Shoe” also allows for lower shipping costs and retail storage, like IKEA furniture, except the upper and sole are sold separately.
And it could almost eliminate factory assembly costs, as the retailer would assemble the shoe instead at no cost!
A truly disruptive innovation in labour cost reduction, would the factories even allow this? I think its is also how Henry Ford would probably have done it.
And like a candy store, or ice-cream parlor, the customer selects the upper style and colour and it gets connected/constructed in store by retail staff 🙂
A final commercial design of snap to fit construction would also allow for a new aftermarket footwear components market to develop.
Allowing also for advanced targeted seasonal upgrades for consumers and reduced shipping costs of smaller packaged individual uppers or soles.
It could also promote local manufacturing, for example weaving your custom upper at a local retailer. Or better still downloading it from the internet, or a file sharing website and custom hacking/modifying it before weaving!!
- This is post is intended to just highlight the potential of such a concept, without offering a final design solution. But to give a better idea the MODUL-R could also look like this if you apply a moccasin construction for example.