3D-printed shoes have, until now, mostly been the stuff of art exhibits and fashion shows presaging a world in which we all look like we're.
On Saturday, shoes molded by 3D printing got a far wider showing, parading along New Jersey's Atlantic City boardwalk on the feet of Miss Georgia, Maggie Bridges.
At the traditional "Show Us Your Shoes" procession -- where Miss America hopefuls wear fancy footwear honoring their home state -- Bridges sported a pair of custom-engineered wedges inspired by the Ramblin' Wreck, the 1930 Ford Model A Sport coupe that serves as student body mascot at Georgia Tech, where Bridges is a senior.
Georgia Tech industrial design students Maren Sonne, Jordan Thomas, and Julia Brooks fashioned the sparkly shoes, which feature a finely detailed laser-cut grille with 3D-printed headlights; a laser-cut black and gold pattern on the heels; and little 3D-printed wheels, complete with tread details, along the sides.
The trio originally considered designing a shoe that said science with every step. "We were looking at DNA strands and beakers used in chemistry and stuff," Sonne says in a video about the design process. In the end, they opted for a distinctly recognizable Georgia Tech icon, the Ramblin' Wreck.
It took the trio about four weeks and $400 to transform the $60 Moda wedges into wearable retro sports cars. The iconic white side bumpers proved the biggest challenge, Sonne told Crave.
"We could only bend them in the x/y axis so we had to make sure they fit the shoes prior to heating up the acrylic," she said. "We made a template out of paper and fit it to the shoe (which took about 10 different templates) we then cut it out of acrylic and heated the material to fit it to the shoes."
Bridges didn't win the Miss America pageant Sunday -- the title went to Miss New York. But she definitely walked away with one glittery prize -- the first pair of Miss America shoes to feature 3D printing. "Maggie absolutely loved them," Sonne reported, an observation echoed by Bridge, who wrote on a Facebook fan page that the students "knocked this out of the park" and created a "work of art."