Footwear industry is a unique industry that demands extensive research for newer, tougher and light weight materials for manufacturing new and premium shoes. Big footwear brands like Adidas and Nike are taking 3D printing to the very edge by directly collaborating with 3D printing companies like EOS, Formlabs and 3D systems to develop performance, sports wear shoes.
Using right materials that suit the manufacturing requirement for the shoes is key. Elastic Polyurethane based materials and flexible TPU are the most preferred materials for manufacturing shoes. These materials are used to make shoe mid soles or the upper parts of the shoe.
It is important that the 3D printing process is also faster for mass production. Hence companies have also working closely towards achieving a faster printing rate. For example, Carbon, a 3D printer manufacturing company has come up with Digital Light Synthesis to cure photosensitive resins quicker.
Being able to bear the load of the person and also being light in weight poses a design challenge. But with 3D printing, complex lattice structures can be manufactured. Adidas unveils Futurecraft 4D, which is the world’s first mass-produced 3D printed shoe. The shoe’s midsoles have a unique lattice structure that is light weight, durable and is completely resin printed.
3D printing helps the footwear and fashion designers to quickly generate concepts and evaluate them. Nike which is one of the top brands experimented by conducting a 3D printing workshop that allows customers to customize their shoes and then place the order. ECCO also announced that it is launching a similar system and it partnered with Dassault Systems for developing the tool that allows customers to choose their designs among pre-modeled combinations.