Prodways New horizons for 3D-printed footwear by Prodways

Editor: Briggette Jaya

France - As sport shoe manufacturers look for ways to accelerate new product launches and to create more versatile footwear to provide enhanced performance for their customers, Prodways Group 3D-printing solutions have opened up new horizons for the industrial production of 3D-printed footwear.

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Plastic laser-sintering 3D printer from Prodways.
Plastic laser-sintering 3D printer from Prodways.
(Source: Prodways)

The company has developed 3D technologies and materials for faster manufacturing of final outsoles, midsoles and insoles providing higher performance, complex textures and customised design and properties across the sole that offer a competitive alternative to traditional manufacturing processes, Prodways says.

According to the France-based company, it has developed a revolutionary elastomeric material for additive manufacturing that has convinced sportswear industry leaders including Nike. Designed for use with laser sintering 3D printers, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material has superior elongation at break capacity of over 300%, and is said to allow for the printing of ultra-flexible mid-soles with higher fatigue resistance, while eliminating the time and cost of tooling. This process also enables a high level of precision in 3D printing of lattice structures – a level that could not be reached with traditional manufacturing processes – thus saving weight and bringing higher performance to sportswear midsoles.

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Harleigh Doremus, Nike Rapid Prototyping, commented: “Prodways’ TPU material has been an excellent addition to our Rapid Prototyping operations. TPU material has allowed us to consistently produce high quality flexible parts and is a key component in increasing the “speed-to-market” of new Nike products.”

TPU’s shore hardness can be varied depending on energy input, allowing for variable density for each area of the midsole, to provide improved performance and address the needs of each sport or athlete better.

In addition, Prodways offers a wide range of premium laser sintering printers beyond small series manufacturing up to the industrial level.

Major footwear players bring hundreds of new sports shoes to market every year, with each new model requiring several dozen outsole patterns and moulds to fit each foot size. Prodways Moving-Light additive manufacturing technology combined with a proprietary material is the only 3D printing technology to print resistant composite moulds to inject or compress a series of final outsoles with tailored designs and complex textures, ready for production within a few hours the company claims.

Mass production of bespoke insoles

Prodways Group has developed an application dedicated to bespoke insoles using 3D printing as well. Commercially launched in January 2017, Scienti-Feet offers podiatrists a fully integrated solution from foot scanner impression to 3D printing of the end product. Once the production has been finalised, the insoles are delivered to the practitioner's office, which delivers them to the patients.

“Being able to 3D print customised soles for specific pain relief is a game-changer for orthopaedic applications. 3D printed insoles are lighter and deliver higher precision to offer a tailor-made treatment to each patient", commented Cyrille Pailleret, general manager at Scienti-Feet.

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