3D printing in shoe manufacturing

Recently, we talked about the use of 3D printing to create orthopedic insoles , the material we brought back from Formnext 2017 , and there we saw a prototype Adidas sneaker with a 3D printed sole. This is an interesting topic, let's delve into it a little more.

The largest manufacturers of sports shoes are investing serious money and time in the development of methods for applying 3D printing in the shoe industry. Companies like Reebok, Under Armor, Adidas, Nike and New Balance actually show that they see 3D as the future of the shoe industry.

What is it, advertising and PR on hype raised around additive technologies, or sober calculation and a look into the future?

Let's try to figure it out.

Under armor

3D printing company EOS North America Inc and Under Armor have joined forces to develop the commercial production of 3D shoes.

The EOS North America and Under Armor partnership helps Under Armor scale their 3D print shoe business.

The use of laser sintering technology, as well as the use of EOS experience in industrial 3D production, will help develop the Under Armor shoe business. Together they intend to work on the composition of new powders and the development of sintering technology.

Under Armor plans to use EOS technology to 3D print powder shoe parts.

To emphasize their partnership, at Formnext 2017, the companies together demonstrated the new UA shoes - ArchiTech Futurist.


Nike also develops shoes using 3D printing technology. In 2017, Footwear News wrote:

<<3D-печатные обувные детали, стельки и подошвы Prodways, изготовленные из термопластичного полиуретана (TPU), применяются для ускорения изготовления кроссовок и повышают их потребительские свойства.

Although Nike has not yet announced the serial production of 3D printed shoes, company executives praise the potential of Prodways materials and 3D printers to improve shoe quality and increase production speed. >>

Nike uses 3D printing in prototyping, working with the French company Prodways.

Nike has already created 3D printed shoes, even though these were non-serial products for professional athletes.

For example, in 2013, the company introduced, and in 2014 released 3D-printed soccer shoes and running shoes.

New balance

New Balance launched the 2016 Zante Generate fully 3D running shoe with running shoes.

Zante Generate - New Balance running shoes with a fully 3D printed sole, created with the participation of 3D Systems.

Collaborating with 3D Systems, NB used DuraForm powder polyurethane for 3D printing of sneaker parts. The soles were printed using SLS technology, the trial batch consisted of 44 pairs.


Reebok is not new to 3D printing; back in 2016, the company introduced its new Liquid Factory 3D technology.

The first Reebok shoe created using 3D printing was called Liquid Speed.

The chemical giant BASF, who developed the polymer for 3D printing used by the company, collaborates with the Reebok Future team, which is responsible for introducing new technologies at Reebok.

The head of Reebok's development department, Bill McInnis, says:

<<Обувная промышленность серьезно не менялась уже тридцать лет. In the creation of each shoe of every brand you know, casting was used - an expensive and long process. With Liquid Factory, we want to change the way shoes are created by introducing a new method of production without casting.

With this process, we can create an entire boot by programming a robot that will draw it, layer by layer, from high-strength liquid material. This results in a sole with completely new properties, much more resilient than traditional rubber soles of sneakers, and more accurately transmitting momentum. Liquid Factory creates a running shoe that stretches and wraps around the foot, providing it with volumetric support from all sides. >>

The company did not stop there. Together with the Modla design studio, they developed Modla X Reebok 3D, a 3D-printed mask for training athletes.

The polymer part of the mask, in the design of which the Ultimaker 2 FDM printers were used for prototyping , is made using EOS 3D printers using SLS technology.

In the production of internal parts, silicone, and the soft part of the mask, made of Flexweave material, laser cutting was used .

The mask is designed to limit air access, which increases the burden on the lungs and helps to train the stamina of the body as a whole. The load is regulated by turning the front of the mask, which switches the silicone valves inside.

The following functionality has not been announced, but - we think that, with some minor refinement, the mask will also serve as a respirator from city dust, which is so much in the air in hot weather.


In 2017, Adidas announced a partnership with Silicon Valley-based Carbon .

One of the main brands in the promotion of 3D printing in the shoe industry, Adidas has partnered with Carbon to use the 3D printed sole made using their Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology in the Futurecraft 4D.

Together, they created the Futurecraft 4D 3D printed insole. This is not only an interesting technical solution, but also a relevant topic - the number of mentions on Instagram is growing.

Marvel Comic Hero Black Panther.

Canadian model Adrianna Ho.

Sneakers have been selling since mid-February, cost about $ 300.

Digital Light Synthesis is a Carbon process that uses breathable optics, digital projection and photopolymer resins with specified parameters in the production of durable polymer products. Futurecraft 4D is Adidas' first application of DLS technology.

DLS gives products strength and resilience. According to Carbon, their unique technology will provide unprecedented durability, strength and resilience of 3D-printed products. Adidas is going to release one hundred thousand pairs of shoes using this technology by the end of 2018.

This is not Adidas first experience with additive technology. A few years ago, the company collaborated with specialists from Shining 3D in developing a model for Springblade sneakers.

The Adidas management was quite an experiment and was going to continue cooperation with Shining 3D, but something did not work out - we didn’t hear about their joint activities anymore, all that remained was to mention Adidas on the Shining 3D website, among partners.

Do it yourself

Some simple types of shoes can now print any owner of a conventional FDM-3D-printer . For these purposes, even the simplest Prusa is suitable , as you can see on this video:

Home slippers , sole for shoes , upper for costume shoes (for cosplay or carnival). Thingivers and other 3D model sharing resources are crowded with such projects.





Real works of art come
across .

Of course, the strength and convenience of such home-made products is a big question, but this is only the beginning.


As you can see, despite the raised advertising hype, quite working models are created that often surpass the shoes made by traditional methods, not only in consumer properties, but also in manufacturability.

3D printing in the shoe industry gives less shoe weight, more flexibility in changing elasticity and stiffness due to the complex internal structure of the print, plus the broadest field for designing and inventing new forms that could not be created using traditional methods.

Considering that the main players in the sports shoe market have been developing in this direction for several years, it is hoped that 3D-printed shoes will soon become publicly available.

Order 3D printing You can go to the Top 3D Shop - rich experience, a wide selection of materials and a large fleet of equipment allow us to fulfill any order.

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