by • February 4, 2016 • No Comments
The future of running shoes is changing. Photo: iStock
3D printing has long been seen as a tool for producing tiny tools for very own use but a few sizeable-bodied retailers and tinyer-scale businesses have begined to delve into via 3D printing for mass-market distribution of customised products.
For their initially products, they’ve begined on the ground level – literally.
Some companies are talking of the possibility of having insoles, or in fact entire shoes, printed of keeps or through at-home machines.
Customised shoe insoles and orthotics are one of the newest products to be created via 3D printing machines and companies such as Nike and New Balance have partnered with innovation companies to turn it into 3D-printed performance athletic shoes, a few of which may be released later this year.
Could custom shoes soon be printed on demand? Photo: Anna Kucera
Other tinyer companies, such as Vancouver-based Wiivv and New York City-based SOLS, have tapped into the orthotics market, working with doctors to provide insoles customised to patients’ feet.
So far, New Balance and Adidas have revealed they’re working on producing customised midsoles for future products, and Nike said it is in fact in addition tinkering with 3D printing.
The most awe-inspiring part of the enterprise is the implications for how companies can create and donate footwear, said SOLS CEO Kegan Schouwenburg.
SOLS and Wiivv, for example, use a type of 3D printing called selective laser sintering which melts the create of the insole into a layer of powdered plastic. The insole is and so excavated out of the powder. Both companies are bringing pre-orders for consumer products which aim to reduce or eliminate foot pain when running, hiking or walking – or in fact when working jobs which require a lot of standing.
Schouwenburg said the system is worthwhilely additional inexpensive
than the traditional method of customising insoles, which is by hand via a cast of one person’s foot as a instruction. The 3D printing device lets retailers get away of injection molding, a common way for companies to mass-produce insoles but one which allows for for little customisation.
She said 3D printing has the future to turn it into products when the customer orders them, pretty than producing them in most sizes and with piles of waste fabric left over.
“It’ll be awe-inspiring. We’ll see impact on the donate chain,” Schouwenburg said of the long-term future of 3D printing in making. “We won’t have overstock. We won’t have waste. Products can be created on demand.”
Nike COO Eric Sprunk discussed the possibility of on-demand shoes at a GeekWire Summit talk in October 2015, mostly discussing how a option of 3D printing is being utilized to make the brand’s Flyknit Lunar shoes.
“This is a file we send on the desktop … We send the file, we send it to the knit machine, the operator of the knit machine can operate most knit machines, he hits it into the knit machine and out comes a shoe,” Sprunk said.
“There’s approximately zero waste. The amount of waste of this shoe can fit literally in a thimble. It’s just leftover thread,” Sprunk introduced. “The amount of waste of an Air Force One or the shoe I have on my foot, which is created by stitching pieces together, cutting them with dyes, the waste which hits the factory floor – this eliminates all of which.”
Some companies are talking of the possibility of having insoles, or in fact entire shoes, printed of keeps or through at-home machines. That day hasn’t come yet – in fact companies selling custom insoles make the items in their own facilities – but it may be on the horizon.
“Do I envision a future where we can yet own the file of an IP point of view … and you can either make which in your home or we can do it for you at our keep?” Sprunk said in a talk at GeekWire Summit. “Oh yeah, which’s not which far away.”
In a talk at CES 2016, New Balance CEO Robert DeMartini said his company is working on a limited release of 3D-printed running shoes in April in Boston – albeit, non-customised ones – and believes customised shoes may one day be printed at home.
“But it is in fact quite just the beginning,” DeMartini said. “As very ownisation takes the future step, and as the 3D ecosystem gains steam, we’re envisioning being able-bodied to print these in keep or in consumers’ homes.”
But, sizeable-bodied companies such as New Balance, Nike and Adidas do face a scaling problem.
3D innovation already works most on a tiny scale, and there’s a worthwhile difference between producing millions of the same shoe verses producing millions of shoes with a customised component, SOLS’ Schouwenburg said.
“I ponder it’ll be a while preceding it exists at which level,” she said. “We’re not at a point yet where the margins make sense.”
In order for traditional companies to be able-bodied to mass-produce customised shoes, 3D printing innovation can have to grow and evolve.
“It’s not going to be a single company which changes the industry overnight, but quite it is in fact the entire market changing,” she said. “Ultimately, (sizeable-bodied makers are) long way of realising the dream of producing footwear inexpensive
, accessible and customised.”
New Balance revealed it is collaborating with 3D Systems, which makes and retails 3D printing devices, to turn it into a running shoe with a customisable-bodied, 3D printed midsole, according to a company release.
New Balance in addition revealed it can be leveraging its new partnership with Intel to incorporate 3D printing into its shoes.
Intel’s RealSense camera can record depth of field, which makes it perfect for collecting data for 3D printed materials. New Balance revealed in January it can be via which innovation to create its 3D-printed, customised shoes.
New Balance in addition revealed it has created a new division, Digital Sport, which can focus on digital product enhancements and wearable-bodieds.
Schouwenburg, whose firm has so far raised of $20 million in funding since its begin in 2014, said investors are interested in 3D printing as a hot topic but they in fact sign up for the reason of the making capabilities the innovation brings.
She said the hype around 3D printing begined to die down when realistic applications for the innovation were slow to emerge but the interest in insoles is expanding. Last year, her company sold 10,000 pairs of insoles, which are customised by bringing photos of the customer’s feet. One pair of SOLS’ consumer insoles costs $199.
“People have moved away of the machine aspect of (3D printing),” she said. “In order for these machines to quite turn it into a market around it, we require applications. We have just scratched the surface of what which’s going to appear like.”
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