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3D-Printed Kickstarter Sneaker Riffs on Aerospace and Opera

A Hong Kong-based sneaker project that takes inspiration from aerospace technology has launched on Kickstarter and will be available to the first batch of donors by October this year.

Merging comfort and performance, 3D-printed Me Next sneakers are designed for a range for fitness activities, whether it be cross-training, cycling, HIIT or jogging, in addition to everyday wear. The shoes include a buffer structure with shock absorption, rebound and under-foot airflow enabling high performance for all wearers.

Where the sneaker really aims to differentiate itself is in its midsole design. The midsole includes a gradient sandwich structure, which is typically used in the aerospace field, and absorbs energy for an aircraft when it is hit by space debris and meteorites, thereby protecting the main structure from damage.

With the structure in place, Me Next says that the midsole’s buffer performance and shock absorption capability are both better than solid structures or non-gradient sandwich structures with the same weight and material.

“Every day, the simple act of walking creates harmful shockwaves that cause injury and fatigue. In fact, for each kilometer walked, our feet experience 600 to 700 impacts with the ground. The effect is worse during exercise, with ground reflection that is two to four times one’s bodyweight. Injuries occur when shoes lack cushioning and buffer performance,” Me Next CEO Leon Xia said in a statement.

The gradient sandwich structure consists of a bottom layer that is designed for absorbing energy from the ground, a middle layer that is made for energy storage and transmission and and a top layer that can return more energy as force is applied to efficiently reduce fatigue caused by long-distance walking.

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Me Next’s midsole consists of more than 762 cushioning units, which are designed to completely protect the foot’s pressure points. The 3D-printed design provides unrestricted airflow and breathability in all directions, which helps to remove moisture and prevent sweat and odors, the brand says.

The buffer structure is made with a micron-sized (one-thousandth of a meter) TPU powder as the raw material and was developed using selective laser sintering (SLS) high-precision 3D printing technology. Using an SLS printer, a power laser heats the small TPU particles into a solid structure.

The outer TPU protection that fully covers the entire midsole is aimed at alleviating a problem often seen with traditional 3D-printed shoes—a short lifespan. Additionally, TPU prevents gravel from collecting in the sole of the shoe.

Sizes range from 6 to 9.5 for women and 6.5 to 12.5 for men.

The sneakers come in three color ways. Sailor is inspired by aerodynamic design seen in sports cars, with yellow, blue and black interlaced to release visual impact. Shadow is a black-and-white combination that uses 3M reflective fabric to evoke the image of a penguin. The third color scheme, Sunday, blends white and black with orange laces, evoking the facial design of masks worn by Sichuan opera performers.

Debuting on Kickstarter, Me Next has launched its first 3D-printed sneaker, which takes inspiration from aerospace technology and materials.
Left to right: Shadow, Sunday, Sailor Me Next

In July, Me Next plans to start preparing the materials depending on how many orders the sneakers receive on Kickstarter, with production starting the next month. The first batch of orders will be shipped in October to “early bird” donors, while the sneakers will be shipped to a wider audience in November.

The first 30 backers can get the shoes if they pledge $190, 46 percent off the footwear’s retail price of $349. The next 4,000 backers would pledge $234. Those who pledge automatically become Me Next members, gaining priority status when ordering new shoes in the future.