Usually, the time to develop a new sneaker can span over a year, but thanks to 3D printing for both prototyping and manufacturing we can reduce the time. Rather than using expensive steel molds and thermoplastic injection molding, 3D printed shoe companies can prototype shoes quickly and affordably. It may be a while, however, before we are all wearing futuristic footwear. Current companies who have embraced 3D printed sneakers include Adidas, Nike, 3DShoes.com, SOLS, Reebok, and Under Armour. We have already gone over Adidas’s Futurecraft 4D and plans for a 3D printed shoe customized to a customer’s exact specifications. Adidas also partnered with the tech company Carbon to make the midsole for their Futurecraft 4D. The shoe is Adidas’s first time using Digital Light Synthesis and represents a step in athlete-data driven design and manufacturing.
Nike produced a 3D printed shoe that was made linear speed and found success with this process for their Flynit shoes. They involve sending a design file to one person and then placing the file in a knitting machine to make the shoe. As For Reebok, their Liquid Factory uses 3D printing to make intricate and visually stunning designs before the company debuted recyclable and unique footwear. Lastly, we see Under Armour turning to 3D printing for the next revolution in sneaker technology. They believe the flexibility of a training shoe will appeal to a wider variety of consumers who are looking for a shoe to take them from the weight bench to the treadmill and back. The future of footwear is about customization, and 3D printing allows for companies to produce personalized shoes rapidly with less expense. The technology makes footwear smarter and trendier, but it will be a while before we are all wearing 3D printed shoes.
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