Are 3D Printed Shoes the Future?

I first encountered 3D printed shoes when I discovered the ‘Futurecraft’ sneaker collection at the TCT 2017 event in Birmingham. In a collaboration between Carbon and Adidas the ‘Futurecraft’ sneaker was born. This sneaker uses a combination of Continuous Liquid Interface Production or CLIP and Digital Light synthesis or DLS technology. Through this 3D technology they have created 3D printed shoes or more specifically 3D printed soles. Being relatively new to the world of 3D Printing this was no not an easy concept to wrap my head around. However, once I understood how these soles were created I was blown away. The DLS technology allows for lattice structures with 20,000+ struts to be achieved creating a sole which is cushioned and most importantly comfortable. Whilst being aesthetically pleasing and comfortable they are not without their drawn backs, the lattice sole design in open and has tiny spaces between the struts. Small stones could easily find their way into these spaces, thus affecting the performance of the shoe. That being said, I believe they are a fascinating step in a new direction for shoe design.

3D Printed Shoes an Industry trend?

Adidas are not the only sports brand turning to 3D printing technology to enhance products and materials. Under Armour joined the ‘3D Printed shoe’ club with their ‘ArchiTech’ collection, first released back in March last year. Again, utilising additive manufacturing to create dynamic lattice structures which reduce heel impact and create a cushioned feel. However, adidas have engaged a different 3D printing technology, opting to use SLS (Selective laser Sintering) technology instead. This manufacturing method creates components by using a laser to fuse powdered material together layer by layer. A collaboration seems to be the direction most sports brands are taking. To achive this design Under Armour have teamed up with EOS, a supplier of industrial 3D printing equipment and consultancy service. Utilising their knowledge of 3D materials this will surely influence future materials going into Under Armour products.

3D Shoes of the Future

Whilst Adidas and under Armour have focused on 3D Printed Shoes soles, Nike have developed the ‘Flyprint’ range which uses 3D technology to print the upper part of the shoe. This lightweight performance shoe is the first of its kind, with the upper area being printed using SDM (Solid Deposit Modelling) technology. Using TPU filament which is similar to the PLA filament we manufacture here at 3D Print Works except harder wearing and more elastic. Qualities which make it highly suitable for 3D Printed shoe design. Of the three shoes talked about in today’s blog the ‘Flyprint’ collection is in my opinion the most exciting. The bright colour integration and clean finish makes this 3D Printed shoe one to watch out for.