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Mass customization

Mass Customization Monday #31

We’ve separated the mass consumed mass produced old news and discarded it. This week once again we bring you only fresh relevant and custom, bespoke mass customized goodness.

Nike Allows for Shoe Customization in an Hour and a Half

Mass customization-3D printed shoes

Nike’s new Nike Makers’ Experience lets people in a mere ninety minutes come in and customize shoes. Mark Smith of Nike has said that,

“The intention of the project is to bring to life the collaborative design experience that we offer our athletes. They love products that tell their story, so we wanted to combine that idea with a new process of live design and manufacturing that allows our guests to come into the space, work collaboratively with us and leave with a special product in less than 90 minutes.

Whereas this is so far only an experience being rolled out in one store it shows us that Nike and other shoe companies are in the advanced stages of implementing mass customization for footwear. Will the Makers’ Experience be the way that we all shop for shoes in the future?

Customized Nuclear Shelters

Customized nuclear shelter

The interior of a Shelter Co. fallout shelter. If this is the interior we may just try our luck outside. 

A almost unknown market is the one for customized nuclear fallout shelters. The New Statesman writes that there has been strong growth in this industry recently.

“But while some private bunker companies have been in operation for years, most saw a spike in demand in April when tensions between Japan and North Korea began mounting again. Ron Hubbard, head of Atlas Survival Shelters, told the Telegraph in May that calls to his company had tripled on a daily basis. In Japan Nobuku Oribe, the director of shelter company Oribe Seiki Seisakusho, which was founded by her grandfather after the Cuban Missile crisis, told the Guardian that they had sold twice as many shelters in April and May this year as they did in 2016.”

Mass customizationThe interior of an Atlas Survival shelter.

Customized nuclear shelter

The top of the line Aristocrat model at Rising Shelters includes a gym, beds for 44 people, a “storage/party unit”, a swimming pool and a bowling alley. 

Materialise and Tailored Fits Make Customized Ski Boots

3D printed shoes

3D printing software company Materialise and customized foot wear company Tailored Fits have collaborated to make 3D printed custom ski boots a reality. The companies also hope to turn their joint platform into a mass customization platform for wearables. Using Materialise’s 3D printing expertise and Tailored Fits the companies can now 3D print TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). TPU (also called TPE) has high dynamic load, elasticity and tear resistance. TPU is being considered as a 3D printing material by several shoe companies and several large polymer companies at the moment. Interestingly Materialise already used a TPU material for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS, also called powder bed fusion) but now in the images is showing a different type of 3D printer which looks like an FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling also called Material Extrusion one). SLS uses lasers to sinter a powder whereas FDM extrudes a filament through a nozzle. Does this mean that the company now has commercialized the same TPU material for two different 3D printing technologies? Or is there a company such as BASF or Covestro waiting in the wings doing the development of the material? Lehmann & Voss has previously developed a Covestro TPU for SLS which has been widely used in the 3D printing industry for flexible applications.

3D printed shoes

Materialise has been the de facto leader in 3D printing software for decades now. Over the past few years the company has gotten closer and closer to several manufacturing applications in areas such as dental, orthopedics, glasses and now shoes. Partnerships to commercialize opportunities in these areas are leading the company to fill many 3D printing manufacturing niches. Shoes are a very important area and we would say that insoles, orthotics and customized shoes are the next big thing for 3D printing. Will Materialise win in this arena? The company certainly had an edge due to its experience but with Reebok, Nike, Adidas and many other companies looking to use 3D printing in shoes this will become a very competitive area.

SquadLocker Claims 500% Year on Year Growth

3D printed shoes

We weren’t familiar with SquadLocker but this US based start up seems to be doing 500% year on year growth. SquadLocker is a mass customization company that lets sports teams order individually customized sports gear. The company lets you select from a broad array of gear from brands such as Adidas, Under Armour, Champion, Nike and Mizuno. You can then customize thousands of items with your team logos and with individual player names as well. You can then also open a Squad Locker store which will ship gear to fans as well. Squad Locker stores can include fund raising margin and be open for limited times to ensure that people order. Players can also order and customize directly from Squad Locker which saves coaches and team volunteers a lot of time and hassle.

3D printed shoes

Could athletic gear be a winner takes all customization market? Could economies in scale of athletic clothing and customization services/machinery lead to one player dominating this business? We think that this may very well be possible. Much of the clothing customization business is rather small and inefficient with may local shops dominating the industry. The process itself is also time consuming. One company could very well build a significant advantage through high school and college team sports gear. Besides this there are very many local amateur sports teams as well. If that scale could let them give outfits such as Real Madrid and large college teams a price advantage than this could be a good path to market for one dominant player. We can’t know if this will be Squad Locker or a competitor but think that Squad Locker’s business will see more entrants in the coming years.

Keen Uneekbot Makes Shoes in Minutes

3D printed shoes

Keen is a Netherlands based shoe manufacturer that makes its shoes in Europe. Assembling and making shoes in Europe is of course a rather expensive proposition when compared to other places. The company has developed an automated shoe robot to automate the assembly and manufacturing of shoes. It is precisely automated manufacturing methods such as these that will have to be developed to make mass customized shoes affordable. By tieing the digital supply chain of the personalized shoe to the manufacturing and by making this manufacturing process efficient true mass customization could be brought to foot wear. We have anticipated and will be keen to follow further developments in this field.


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