3D printed shoes are all the rage the last few months, with top shoe apparel brands racing each other to bring the best 3D printed shoe to the market. This evolution makes sense for many reasons.
Until recently, sports brands were solely relying on 3D printing for prototyping and rapid design feedback. Thanks to advancements in this technology, it is now increasingly relevant to apply 3D printing to produce finished goods.
In the competitive market of footwear, brands used to compete mainly with marketing budgets and high-level sponsor contracts. Now, sports brands are increasingly looking at innovation to set themselves apart from the competition. It is clear that innovation, and 3D printing in specific becomes a huge differentiator
So which companies are pushing the envelope in this trend? In the section below we got all relevant players nicely lined up:
In 2015, Sporting goods giant adidas announced the Futurecraft 3D, a running shoe with a unique 3D-printed midsole that can be tailored to the cushioning needs of an individual’s foot.
Adidas went even further when they recently aunched their new “Ultraboost Parley” shoe. This collaboration with environmental group Parley advocates to reduce ocean plastic and raise awareness about this issue. The shoe is made with 5% recycled polyester and 95% dredged plastic waste from the ocean. Result? The shoes are being made up of 11 recycled plastic bottles per shoe.
In April this year, New Balance released the Zante Generate, a 3D-printed running sneaker that will be made commercially available. The Zante Generate will be released exclusively as a limited edition of 44 pairs.
The release is a tribute to the company’s owner Jim Davis and his forty-fourth year owning the Boston-based shoe company. While the upper half of the Zante Generate is made using traditional materials like an engineered mesh, the midsole is entirely 3D printed using a selective laser sintering process.
In May this year, Nike announced their creation of a custom track spike for sprinter Allyson Felix , which will enhance the athlete’s performance.
Nike is looking into the prospects of rapid prototyping possibilities with the start of a 3D printing and Selective Laser Singering (SLS) space that allowed them to make and tweak prototypes in hours instead of months. In 2015, they also created spikes for the Nike Vapor Lasor Talon and the Nike Vapor HyperAgility.
This October, Reebok came up with its own attempt to rethink the traditional molding process. Reebok’s Liquid Factory draws the frame of these shoes in three dimensions, using a special “high rebound” liquid created by BASF.
While these shoes are available only as a 300 pair limited edition, the company expects to take this project further in the future.
5. Under Armour
In March this year, Under Armour released a limited edition of the Architech, a performance training shoe optimized for multiple sports. The 3D-printed mid-sole helps with cushioning and support, because the lattice adapts as you apply more weight in particular areas. Normally an athlete might buy a variety of shoes for different activities but with the Architech you don’t need to change shoes, because it adapts to your activity. Under Armour was the first brand to bring 3D printed shoes into a retail environment.
The road ahead?
Taking customization further.
Successful personalization campaigns such as NIKEiD and miAdindas served as early indicators of the power of personalization within the footwear industry. As brands continue to adopt this technology and its advancements, we can expect to see even more personalization innovation with 3D printed midsoles, outsoles, lacing, and upper design.
Furthermore, 3D foot scans are making it possible to accurately target both the professional athlete and hard-to-find-size sectors. 3D printing will allow designers to create soles in a faster and more innovative way as they no longer have to rely on molds. We also expect the industry will start exploring new and eco-friendly materials, as illustrated by Adidas’s latest use of recycled ocean plastics.
3D printing will allow a variety of radical product improvements. For example, the manufacturing of the die shoe – a metal block inserted between the lower half of a cutting or shaping die and the bed of a press to spread the blow and avoid wear – can benefit from 3D printing. Where this is a long process with a lot of different components and machinery, 3D printing can speed up the process and simplify this significally. Or wouldn’t the perfect shoe fit without the need for laces? Digital manufacturing technologies have a high level of design freedom and can be of help here.
Twikit is very exited about this new revolution. Moreover, we have all the in-house knowledge and experience to fulfill every one of previous predictions. Interested? Talk to one of our designers to learn more, or ask us for a software demo. Our team is always full of ideas.