Creating 3D design into patterns (flattening electronically)

I use Rhino to design my shoes which is great, draw dircet onto the last, make all details for specs etc.

However I want to be able to flatten this into a pattern to give to my factory or to laser cut directly

I have tried all manner of Rhino plugins such as Ship Constrcutor etc, however these flatten in the true sense apposed to springing as well

The only way I can make this work is exporting it as a VRML into Shoe Master and then flattening through their package. The problem is that Shoe Master is many $$$$$$$ that I don’t have in my back pocket and can’t justify for this one function

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated

you’re not gonna find anything except shoe master that helps you with spinging a pattern.

at the bottom of the page “pete” describes how he does it using the Unroll feature:

I do pull the surfaces off the model with Unroll. The surface must be developable to make it work. The simplest way to think about it is, two of the curves must be straight or at least simple. This does not mean that you have to limit your design, you just have to keep in mind your objective. If you are modeling to have a groovy rendering the surfaces maybe too complex. You can get the same complexity from a series of simpler surfaces that can be developed and then joined together.

For sew products, bag packs etc, I have found working in Rhino to be sculptural. The up side from a design stand point is I can do a quick model, print out 1/4 or full scale patterns, tape it up and look at it. If its a little tweeked, I’ll fix it. This has saved me a sampling round on a number of occasions.

From a sampling stand point, picture the normal arrangement of sittting in the factory conference room looking at first samples. If the proportions are off, you mark up the sample and it takes several days for new patterns and a new sample. With the product modeled, I can change the model, regenerate the patterns and I can get a new sample the next day. This is a much bigger advantage when the product is more complicated in form. The factorys that I have worked with love it.

I have used his process on bags and other softgoods also and find it fantastic for early smapling. Asia on the otherhand has had a problem with it.

of course if you print the unrolled patterns out and construct them, you can adjust the spring yourself by hand with a last…but that doesn’t solve your problem.

thanks for this, it is a great help, i will have a play and see.

The other thing i was thinking of exploring was getting a plugin scripted for Rhino to perform pretty much the same function as Shoe Master. Would that be of an iinterest to anyone as well.

I have been springing them by hand to date, just for sampling, but i want a really streamed logistic

Thanks for your help Supernaut

just one of the reasons why a great pattern maker cant be replaced.

in my experience, most factories still use a master pattern maker to take a design to 3d from a drawing, then back to 2d for the base pattern. i would think that in most cases going the 3d cad route is overkill.

would be great to hear from others in maybe larger companies if patterns are done with cad or still the old fashion method… yo?

of course a computer is still used after a base pattern is made for grading and arrangement of cutting efficiency, but i dont think in any fty ive been in have they ever done the actual base pattern working in 3d…

maybe its just the factories i have had experience with?


Everywhere I’ve ever worked, patterns are done by hand. I don’t think theres any replacement for it. I think this is where shoes differ from other kind of id and have more in common with clothing.

For instance, how does a computer know how to spring a pattern? This is going to completely depend on the nature of the material you are making the shoe out of, it’s hard for a computer to guess how to do it. I think you have to do that bit by hand.

I’d go as far as to say it’s easier to do the patterns by hand than by cad. Again becasue of the nature of the materials it’s a trial and error method, it can take a few attempts to get something that works.


there are just too many factors to take into account that i doubt a computer could ever be as good as pattern maker. not only the different material, but which direction a leather is cut vs. the grain, the last, the foams, reinforcements, size of the part, detailing (embroidery, etc.) on top, …

shoemaking certainly is a blend between art and science i would say. even in the manufacturing process, theres a lot to be said for a good fty and operator that can mean the difference from a shoe looking like a potatoe or something nice. still the best manufacturing is done by hand for a reason, depsite all sort of expensive computer lasting machines and assembly!

sometimes in my experience, trying to control everything actually works against you. far better to decide the things that are important and leave some margin of error for other things. if a certain part needs to line up with another part for example, the other end of it may not be where its supposed to be if the material slightly stretches, or the lasting is a little off. best to pick your battles!

just my 0.02$ worth.


I totally agree with both your points, I am looking at this as complimentary apposed to replacing processes and skill sets

The advantages of having the electronic option for myself apposed to going straight to manually taping the last and pulling of the pattern is due to the scale of what i do.

Working at a bespoke level somewhat limits the amount of access you can get to pattern makers within a closed circuit factory, to date i have been spoilt with talented pattern cutters from the frail uk shoe industry. The problem is that these guys are all outworkers and independants (set in different locations) getting the last maker to make patterns the way the closer likes is hard and vice versa (allowances, pulling tightness etc) unless they work with each other day in day out. Also there is not the luxury of a many sample runs, so there is a real need to hit the floor running with patterns for many reasons, time, cost etc

Having such a system for myself, would help with the following:

  1. shipping files to Italy or china or even 2 hours up the road is much cheaper electronically
  2. my product architecture is set for bespoke footwear harnessing a mass customisation model and manufacturing technique. Reallying on the greatest pattern maker in the world to get continuity over the counter shape through sizes that change left to right and from every client is hard
  3. having the ability to store the data electronically to use as a survey (establish trends in the foot sizing and fitting, what works with toe box shape…obviously there are eight different foot types across every size) for much more informed patterns for a mass market (sizing originally born from digital foot scanning
  4. all the uk pattern makers are dyeing, a shame but i know three that all past away last year. Maybe i have that effect on people.

At the moment the electronic elements of the process at nearly every level are reversed engineered. This is not because the software can not handle the process but because the operator is scared to handle the software.

I think the overall reason of having such a feature would allow smaller guys like me to get things manufactured (more to the point sampled), Euro Shoe looked at this stuff but didn’t actually ever do anything meaningful. The overall purpose would not be to replace pattern cutters at the volume end but hopefully establish a cleaner logistic for sampling in small scale for countries without a manufacturing.

I find this an interseting area and getting the balance spot on is key, keeping the John Lobbs alive whilst exploring some of the freedom of creations with systems such as software is an art in itslef yet as you both have touched upon; a dangerous one.

It would be good to hear your thoughts guys

im over here (there?) in china now on development and thought about this question as i was working on reviewing the pattern for a new shoe.

i asked the fty manager here (in a very good A fty that manufactures for top international brands (hummel, Mizuno, etc.)) who has had over 30 years in the shoe business previously running a nike and an adidas fty (different ftys at different times) if patterns are ever done 3d.

simple answer, he said no, at least not ever to his knowledge or in his experience.

just thought you may be interested.

sometimes technology is a tool and sometimes its just technology. if anything given the scale of what you do and how it is bespoke, pattern making by hand really has no substitute.

my 0.02$worth.


Hey Rich,

I totally agree, there is no substitute to making patterns by hand, namely beacuse the guys who are the best pattern cutters around are of an age and have always done it by hand. However I also know that the orthopeadic industry would not make a profit unless they had this technology due to being a customised solution within a mass produced framework. What they have cleverly done is transfer the age old guys onto pattern making software side to allow scaling up without replacing a dieing work force (UK)

I want to use this as a tool to compliment the hand making patterns (digitising the original) to mainly keep a stock ref of sizes and look for trneds within professional ranks of soccer. The last meaningful data capture which is public knowledge is from the war and obviously foot type has progressed from then because as a planet we consume different shoes. (softer, more cushioned etc) If I get a 100 clients who are roughly a size 8-9 then perhaps trends would appear to make a more informed decision upon mass market design for elite level ranks for the first phase of a take down to mass market.

Perhaps your dude could make my boots, I could stick my lasts in your suitcase everytime you hit China! :smiley: