Athletic shoe makers are going all-in 3D printing with the goal of producing customized footwear for the general consumer market. Here's where the key players stand so far. (pics via The Motley Fool)
The traditional process of manufacturing footwear consists of a series of moves that have literally taken the US out of contention for recreating any serious creation of jobs in the industry. It used to be that places like Saco and shoe dogs in New England crafted footwear and a person could learn the trade of a cobbler and make a living.
To make a performance shoe today these are the steps: design, submit the design to a production facility, have a last created (this allows for widths and a last is needed for each width), choose materials, have a mold for the outsole created (typically a latex or rubber is utilized for the outsole), the footwear is bonded with a glue, and a sample is produced. These steps have to be cost effective because once a mold is created the shoe has to be made in a quantity that justifies the costs of creation.
Today it's rare to find a shoe on the market designed, crafted and produced in the US. There are rare instances of Made in America with New Balance manufacturing a fraction of their shoes in the US. Nike also operates the Nike Innovation Kitchen where some limited Quickstrike shoes are developed, but general release, more commercial releases are made in countries abroad.
3D Printing offers the ability for companies like Nike, adidas, New Balance and Under Armour an opportunity to return some level of production to the U.S. in a more consistent manner.
The problem is who is willing to pay for a commercial release at 300.00 or more per pair?
The Motley Fool took a moment a year ago to analyze who was first to the market in the race to 3D performance footwear. In this analysis Under Armour was first to market with their UA Architech. Nike hasn't really jumped into the water in a similar manner, but they were the first to make a 3D printed component utilized in a professional sport. adidas recently made the biggest splash with an announcement that they will produce 100,000 pair of their Futurecraft 4D shoes.
3DShoes.com recognizes that the market has to be educated on why 3D printed footwear is important. There is very important component that is being missed with the coverage of large sportswear companies entering the market. DTC. While it's more attractive to purchase a pair of shoes from a brand like New Balance, who was the second company to produce a 3D printed shoe, customers today are very involved in their fashion.
Customers now want to be a part of the creative process and 3D Printing offers the unique opportunity today without the "name brand" to make a pair of shoes right now.
Use the source link to read more about how the big brands are entering the market.