PLM, mass-customization and 3D printed high heels

PLM, mass-customization and 3D printed high heels


What is connecting high heels and airplane landing gear? Some people can find a commonality and special ones can build a business around it. My attention caught by the following BI article – A former SpaceX exec is reinventing the high heel with the help of an astronaut and a rocket scientist. Meet Dolly Singh and Thesis Couture. Dolly spent 6 years working at SpaceX as a recruiter in southern California, matching those who could build rockets with the companies who wanted to enter the next frontier before deciding to redesign high-heels. The outdated design is just a metal plate, a metal shank and compressed cardboard.

The definition of the problem is a key. This is a moment of time high-heels are getting a direct connection to the airplanes and landing gears. The following passage is explaining that.

They took a cue from Musk and broke the problem down to the fundamental laws of physics acting on high heels, or chassis depending on your approach. When it comes to high heels, there’s three: how the shoe distributes weight, what happens when it hits the ground and the friction between your foot and the shoe.

Those are the only design constraints, Singh said. The basic shape of the high heel and its materials — a metal plate, a metal shank and compressed cardboard — haven’t changed in many years. “A skinny metal rod and cardboard is basically all you’re standing on when you’re wearing stilettos, so it doesn’t take a lot for scientists to see that it’s not a particularly sophisticated structure from an engineering standpoint,” Singh said. Instead of asking for help with high heels, she approached them with an engineering problem: how would they redesign a chassis to support a human’s weight and range of motion?

According to the article, Thesis Couture is planning to 3D print high heel shoes. You can learn more on their website.


The story about Thesis Couture made me think about data driven mass customization. Mass customization is an interesting trend these days in manufacturing. The demand for customization is high. Customers are looking for more products tailored for specific customer needs and requirements. Now, think for a moment that the design of high- heel shoes is customized for your weight, body and (just dream for a moment) for the way you walk. This is an enormous potential to create a custom build high-heel show.

However, mass customization created large number of challenges for manufacturers. Product lifecycle management technologies are standing just in the middle between engineering and manufacturing. In many situations, this is a center piece of mass customization challenges. Some of my previous articles can give you some idea about these challenges – The role of PLM in mass customization; PLM, mass customization and ugly truth about vertical BOM integration; Mass customization is the real reason for PLM to want MBOM.

What is my conclusion? Maybe I’m just dreaming and 3D printed mass customizable high-heel shoe is not what customer wants. Maybe the biggest problems of mass customization are coming from aircraft, automotive and some other industries. However, just think for a moment – one of the most custom built product in the world is our body. To tailor products to our body is a big challenge. And high heels is just one example. We are going to see more examples in the future. And PLM vendors should think how to make their engineering and manufacturing technologies capable to handle people body configurations as well. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

pictures credit BI article and Thesis Couture website


Share This Post