by • April 23, 2016 • No Comments
Today’s major athletic footwear companies — that include Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and New Balance — have come to rely on 3D printing to speed up the system of designing and prototyping new shoe creations. Moreover, these companies have been slowly revealing plans for via 3D printing beyond prototyping to print the finished shoes themselves. At the Boston Marathon this week, both New Balance and Under Armour released their initially 3D printed shoes, and things seem to be moving swift. Here’s a swift breakdown of who’s in the race and why it matters.
On the other hand Nike added a limited run of selective laser sintered (SLS) 3D printed plates for its Vapor Laser Talon football cleat in 2013 – an industry initially – the Oregon company has remained relatively mum regarding details of how 3D printing may be utilized in next footwear creations. That said, it has been quite outspoken of its faith in additive building technologies and is in fact assembling a 125,000-square-foot “Advanced Product Creation Center.” In October of 2015, COO Eric Sprunk publicly said he ponders a next where “consumers can manufacture their own Nike products at home or in-store is not that far away.”
For its Futurecraft series, Adidas has been teasing viewers with a series of a few awe-inspiring YouTube videos, launched in October 2015, that touch on how a 3D printed shoe may be created. As the second-largest footwear company, Adidas has been putting worthwhile effort into publicly revealing its interest in building 3D printed shoes, yet it remains to be seen if and when Adidas in fact plans to release.
Above: But shot of Adidas YouTube channel
Image Credit: Adidas
New Balance has been building additional worthwhile strides towards donateing a full 3D printed midsole to market than both Nike and Adidas. Through a collaboration with Nervous System and 3D Systems, the company launched its initially shoes showcasing 3D printed midsoles at the Boston Marathon. The midsoles, created of a newly created elastomeric powder, reportedly allow the shoes to complete an optimal balance of flexibility, durablity, mass, and durability. Time for consumers to try for themselves.
Above: But shot of New Balance YouTube channel.
As the youngest and many nimble company in the group, Under Armour’s recently-announced UA Architech is the initially shoe to in fact manufacture it to the market (see image at top of story). But, just 96 (the company was founded in 1996) of the $300 versions are being created, that means that despite this being the initially 3D printed shoe to manufacture it into the retail environment, it is yet far of being the initially 3D printed shoe that can be accessible to the masses.
The finish line
One of the additional technical inquiries in the race for the initially 3D printed shoe is a matter of definition: What is a 3D printed shoe? Is it just a single prototype proof, or is it a product that comes with a completely revamped brand and a ground-breaking donate chain? Does it qualify as a 3D printed shoe if it’s just a tiny component of the midsole, or does the full shoe have to be 3D printed?
But, these companies are at the verge of creating a whole new category of mass-customized products via 3D printing. With a swift 3D scan of a foot, it can be possible to customize not just color but in addition form – based on the precise anatomical shape of a foot. The benefits here may not just lead to athletic gains for competitive athletes but may in addition assist consumers with health problems and may just donate a new level of ‘style.’
Because modern 3D printing equipment can be stored inside an average retail environment, or in fact at home, custom shoes can be printed almany precisely at the point of purchase, completely disrupting the existing donate chain. All of a sudden, we are going of a building version that creates a lot of the same product at a few remote place and ships it to a location in hopes of a sale, to a building version that manufactures the sale digitally, creates just what is requireed, on demand and locally, while donateing inside 24 hours.
The outcome can be custom-tailored shoes specific to an individual’s require, creating a whole new powerful product category for shoes — not unlike how men have had their suits custom-tailored by hand for centuries. Footwear companies may automatize
their production locally, saving on (possibly unethical) labor in low-wage countries, reducing shipping to a minimum, and bypassing risk of upfront production and waste.
With such clear benefits, it’s not too far-fetched of a concept to ponder that athletic footwear can be the rad application for 3D printing that a lot of folks seem to be looking for.
Filemon Schoffer is Head of Community at 3D Hubs, a network of local 3D printing services.
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