Consumer applications have presented a challenge for additive manufacturing (AM), but we will see that change as time passes. According to market research, the footwear industry and AM will bring big changes in how consumer products are made. 3D printing has been used for footwear prototyping and will continue to be used for modeling and mold production. In recent year additive manufacturing technologies have become very productive and cost-effective. 3D printed midsoles are the very first consumer products to be produced by additive manufacturing. Insoles are the first products to be mass customized with 3D printing. SmarTech says that footwear 3D printing revenues represent 0.3% of global footwear revenues, but that is set to rise. The industry’s movement toward the adoption of additive manufacturing is tied to the trend of increased personalization of consumer products.
Young consumers are starting to value custom-made products as they become more readily available. As customization and digital automation come together, mass customization will continue to emerge. 3D printed shoes are being made by many startups, with the help from services such as Materialise and Jabil. Companies such as Adidas and New Balance have developed a way for cost-effectively 3D printing thousands of footwear midsoles. Right now, outsoles are the farthest away from AM because they require very durable materials. They are also easy to make with current technologies, but there are projects in the works.
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