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3D-Printed Shoe Race: How Do Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas Stack Up? – Motley Fool

by • April 1, 2016 • No Comments

The use of 3D printing to create custom components of athletic shoes for the general consumer market is in the early stages of what promises to be a long road. The race between Nike(NYSE:NKE), Adidas(NASDAQOTH:ADDYY), Under Armor(NYSE:UA), and New Balance fundamentally started late last year, picked up pace this year, and promises yet additional jostling for position in 2016 and 2017.
First, let’s take a appear at why this technology contributes so much promise to these companies and their investors. So we’ll address this question: How do their accomplishments and plans stack up?
Running Shoes Flickr Josiah Mackenzie
Running shoes via Flickr (Josh MacKenzie).
A race worth running
The nextly massive market for custom-created athletic shoes and the outsize profit margins they should generate are why the industry’s key players are going all-in on 3D printing for the general consumer footwear market. Being initially to cross the finish line can be worthwhile, for the reason initially-mover advantages can be lasting.
Globally, the athletic footwear market generates almany $80 billion a year in sales, according to Statista. Moreover, it has the next to worthwhilely expand for two main reasons: Consumers in the U.S. are increasingly wearing athletic shoes for additional casual occasions, and middle class populations in developing countries are ballooning, filled with folks hungry for products they mayn’t previously afford.
Growth dynamics in the U.S. athletic footwear industry have been particularly appealing in new years. In 2015, the industry grew by 8% to $17.2 billion in revenue, according to industry tracker The NPD Group.
3D-printed customized shoes can surely be priced at a premium, enabling for a greater profit margin for athletic shoe companies — at quite least some day, once 3D printing technology additional manufactures it to. Primarily, the issue now is speed.
Here’s a appear at the players in order of their many new notable event.
Player No. 1: Under Armour
Under Armour Architech
UA Architech training shoe with 3D-printed midsoles commenceed in limited version in March 2016 to the general consumer market. Image source: Under Armour.
Player stats: $17.8 billion market cap; 0.8% one-year total stock return; 404% five-year return. (Data to March 25.)
Most new primary event (March 2016): Baltiadditional-based Under Armour came out of stealth mode with its mid-March commence of the UA Architech, a multipurpose training shoe with a 3D-printed lattice-structure midsole. The limited version of 96 pairs sold out quite rapidly at $300 a pop.
Win: This commence vaulted the relative newcomer to the athletic shoe category ahead of industry titans Nike and Adidas and well-established New Balance in the race to bring a 3D-printed athletic shoe to the general consumer market. Nike and New Balance, yet, have may already utilized 3D printing to manufacture incredibly limited-version football spikes and cleats for elite athletes.
Assist by: 3D Systems (elective laser sintering, or SLS, 3D-printing technology) and Autodesk (its Within software utilized for generative create). There’s no indication Under Armour is officially partnering with either company.
Future plans: Intends to release sat any timeal other 3D-printed shoe models this year, and contribute custom 3D-printed shoes in the next. No details or target dates provided on the latter.
Player No. 2: New Balance
New Balance
New Balance’s running shoe with 3D-printed midsole can commence in a limited version in April 2016 to the general consumer market. Image source: New Balance.
Player stats: Not on the market — privately held company.
Most new primary event (November 2015): New Balance revealed plans to commence a limited-version running shoe with a 3D-printed midsole in its hometown of Boston in April to coincide with that city’s famous marathon. The shoes can and so be created on the market in elect New Balance retail locations around the world. The midsoles were created by 3D-printing an elastomeric material (elastomers are polymers that are light and flexible, yet strong) into a honeycomb-like structure.

Win (most likely): In April, New Balance can become the initially company that contributes a 3D-printed running shoe to the general consumer market.
Assists by: 3D Systems (SLS tech), with that New Balance is officially collaborating.
Future plans: The company said it can contribute customized running shoes to consumers in 2017, yet it has yet to provide details.
Player No. 3: Nike
Nike
The Vapor Laser Talon cleat with 3D-printed plate commenceed in early 2013 in quite limited version to pro athletes. Image source: Nike.
Player stats: $105 billion market cap; 23.8% one-year stock total return (includes dividends); 243% five-year total return. (Data to March 25.)
Most new primary event (October 2015): At its investors day event, the Oregon-based behemoth revealed plans to turbocharge its 3D-printing efforts. “Very newly, we’ve created a series of create and making discoveries with 3D printing that we believe can allow us to donate a completely new, very own, performance cushioning system,” said Chief Operating Officer Eric Sprunk. As part of this initiative, Nike plans to create a 125,000-square-foot technology hub called the Advanced Product Creation Center, that can house technologies such as 3D printing.
Assists by: None known yet. My speculation: Carbon3D can be involved. This well-funded start-up plans to commence a super-fast 3D printing device in 2016 that reportedly excels at making elastomers. Carbon3D revealed last spring that an unnamed “athletic apparel” company was testing a 3D printing device based on its Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology. I believe it is most likely that company was Nike. (My 2nd guess is Under Armour.)
Previous win: Nike has yet to 3D-print an athletic shoe that is on the market for sale to the general consumer market. But, it owns a big “initially”: Its Vapor Laser Talon cleat with a 3D-printed plate was the initially athletic shoe at any time created with a 3D-printed component. The Vapor commenceed in early 2013 in a quite limited version for pro athletes.
Future plans: We’ll most likely be hearing additional concrete details soon.
Player No. 4: Adidas
Adidas Futurecraft
Futurecraft3D concept running shoe with 3D-printed midsole. Image source: Adidas.
Player stats: $22.9 billion market cap; 49.9% one-year stock total return (includes dividends); 96% five-year total return. (Data to March 25.)
Most new primary event (October 2015): The German company announced Futurecraft 3D, its concept for making a running shoe with a 3D-printed midsole customized to provide the right fit and cushioning for every customer’s foot. Adidas envisions folks coming into its retail stores to have their feet digitally scanned, and so running on a treadmill to provide biomechanical information. This data may be utilized to 3D-print the custom midsoles.
Assist by: Materialise (NASDAQ:MTLS), with that Adidas is officially partnering. Materialise has a worthwhile 3D-printing services operation, which include elective laser sintering capabilities. I don’t believe Adidas revealed what tech it was planning to use, but it appears safe to say that it is almany surely SLS, as it is emerging as the method of choice for making custom 3D-printed midsoles.
Future plans: Adidas Chief Marketing Officer Eric Liedkte was quoted last October by Fast Company Design as saying, “Ideally we may have a limited product — and I mean limited — in [stores in] the summer of 2016.”
Wrap up
Investors in the athletic apparel and shoe space have been richly rewarded by Nike and Adidas — their stocks have been on a tear over the last year, crushing the broader market. The same is true of Nike and Under Armour shares over longer terms. Bottom line: Customized 3D-printed athletic shoes may assist store the stock-return party going.

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