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Today, lots of footwear manufacturers consider 3D printing offers a great chance to promote shoe development and supply chain and are making great efforts in its innovations. Can 3D printed shoes be impending future?
The development of cost-efficient 3D printers is changing how designers and companies design and fabricate physical products. 3D fast prototyping service is required in more and more industries. More than 20% of 3D printed products are today finished products and the percentage is expected to rise to 50% by 2020. The technology is known as "additive production", compared to the conventional "subtractive" method of drilling and cutting, demands less material, labor and reworking. Some shoe manufactures see the great potential of 3D printing in promoting mass customization of shoes. In their boldest vision, they aim to win the marketplace by providing the masses with shoes tailored to individual foot and gait - soon after placing the order. Can it be the impending future of shoe manufacturing? Many well-known brands like Adidas are really engaged in it by pairing up with a very professional prototyping company.
3D printing technology delivers an overwhelming competitive edge - personalization on bulk scale enables products to be adjusted to the individual customer requirement while maintaining costs and production time lower compared to traditional ways of production. Why is this fast prototyping service significant for shoe companies like Adidas, Nike? Because the feet of each individual are different; shapes and sizes differ from people to people. But shoes come in a specific form and different size. Weight, posture and walking style are equally important. With 3D fast prototyping service, a shoe manufacturer is able to provide its regular customers with personalized shoes that have exactly the same comfort and functionality as the shoes now just elite athletes could afford. Stakes are large, and many big shoe manufacturers are gambling on 3D printed shoes with two important goals. Firstly, to compete with their rivals in present markets, they need to alter the rules of this game. Cheaply made versions of standard products that are nearer to the preferences of consumers will be crucial to give them the lead. Shortened cycle time, reduced inventory and transportation costs will also increase the bottom line. Secondly, using this fast prototyping service to develop, test, and modify new designs will make product development easier and quicker. This technology advancement will may bring about more unique and innovative structures and shapes which may reinvent present product offering.
Many world-famous sportswear brands are taking the leap to move forward in 3D printing of shoes. They are currently addressing the inefficiency of 3D printers which are incapable of pivoting from one-off prototyping design to mass manufacturing. And they have got several achievements. For example, by cooperating with the professional prototyping company, Adidas is now using "Digital Light Synthesis" technology to create plastic components of shoes such as the sneaker midsoles using a pool of resin, without getting large material waste or requirement for injection molding. Because of this, midsole could be produced in under 30 minutes without a cleanup is needed - a paradigm change in footwear manufacturing. It is believed that this new shoe production method will finally offer shoes with better performance and make formerly near-impossible assemblies. Adidas’ successful attempt to the use of 3D printing in making shoes and the market of 3D printed shoes provides significant guidance for other shoe firms in manufacturing their 3D printed shoe components.
The shoe manufacturer and the prototyping company may together bring 3D printed sneakers into the mainstream. The outlook looks promising though, and there are several critical issues needed to be addressed before 3D printing can shake up the footwear industry and reap huge commercial benefits. Firstly, the speed, reliability, and cost of 3D printing at high volumes is still a major concern. This new manufacturing process is said to be“100 times faster” than the traditional method of shoe manufacturing. But the automated plants that some big shoe manufacturers built for their 3D printing of shoes like Adidas’ “Speedfactory” can only produce one million pairs of shoes. As you might know, Adidas sells as many as 360 million pairs of shoes worldwide.
Currently, there are many problems with the application of 3D printing in technology. For example, the process is time-consuming, and the finished products are not as perfect as expected. The shoe manufacturer and the prototyping company are now working with dedication to address these issues.
However, there are still many advantages to use this fast prototype technology. You can use 3D printing technology to produce a shoe model which can help you test the design, get feedback from customers, thereby you can modify your design to the best. The technology gives the designers more freedom to create unique and creative shoe design.
Although the technology still is not well-developed enough to be used for mass production and customization of shoes, in the new product development stage, it is widely used by designers to create more innovative shapes and bold design of shoes.
If you are not sure your new shoe design is feasible or marketable, you could partner with a professional prototyping company to make a 3D printed functional prototype. It makes help you find out which material is the most appropriate, which color better caters to the current market, what functionality needs to be further improved, and more.