To build a great quality product, you have to understand your customer's needs, innovate, design, test, and design again before having a product that is ready for market. These challenges are no different for the shoe industry, so it's not too hard to find the impact 3D printing is having on the advancement of shoe technology.
Massive shoe companies such as Nike and Adidas are utilizing 3D printing in ways that help them better understand their customers, get products to market faster, and improve on functional design. Adidas has been using 3D printing for years to address challenges for shortening production and development time, which in turn has sped up their time to market for new products. According to Adidas, the ability to print models made from multiple PolyJet 3D printing materials enables them the ability to do functional testing in the early stages of the design and development. This generates time savings and a competitive edge. Prior to 3D printing, Adidas prototypes were made by hand and took a long time to create. With 3D printing, designs can be knocked out in a matter of hours.
Nike has started to take functional testing using 3D printing to the race track. Working with Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Johnson and his Performance team, Nike started printing and testing football cleats like the Vapor Laser Talon. The ability to create a shoe that improves an athlete's speed and traction can be the difference between a wide receiver catching up to an over thrown pass or a linebacker tracking down a running back.
"Nike's new 3D printed plate is contoured to allow football athletes to maintain their drive position longer and more efficiently, helping them accelerate faster through the critical first 10 yards of a 40 yard sprint," said Johnson. "Translated to the game of football, mastering the Zero Step can mean the difference between a defensive lineman sacking the quarterback or getting blocked." 3D printing technology is allowing Nike to design cleat plates in ways that previously were not possible with traditional manufacturing.
Recently Wiivv Wearables Inc. received a substantial investment from Evonik Industries to start producing 3D printed insoles. Wivv aims to start producing insoles that are specific to a customer's anatomy by utilizing electric sensors to map out a customer's foot. "Wiivv's business is an ideal match for Evonik," said Dr. Bernhard Mohr, head of Venture Capital at Evonik. "Through our investment in Wiivv, we're supporting the market launch of one of the first individualized mass-produced articles to be manufactured by 3-D printing. This also gives Evonik access to the highly innovative growth market for wearables," added Mohr.
There is no question that in the future, the shoes we wear out on the town or in the gym will see improvements in comfort, style, and functionality with the innovation 3D printing allows.
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