3D printing has made quite an impact in the fashion industry; the technology has not only enabled new and innovative styles but also ergonomic and comfortable designs to be created. 3D engineering is helping shoe manufacturers all improve design and production performance. Athletic brand, New Balance, introduced a track-specific running shoe which utilizes 3D printing to personalize the soles of shoes, which is supposed to enhance performance with every step. Since then, companies such as Reebok and PUMA have all switched to 3D printing for prototyping their newest shoes.
What are the benefits of using 3D printing in the shoemaking industry? Two major companies in the industry, Nike and Adidas, says 3D printing speeds up the process of manufacturing significantly, "using the technology to make multiple prototype versions at a previously impossible speed."
Previously at Adidas, 12 technicians were required to hand-make its prototypes; however with 3D printing, no more than two are needed. With the addition of 3D printers, the company has reduced the time it needed to evaluate a new prototype from six weeks to one to two days.
While 3d printed shoes are not ready to be sold to the market, it still provides many benefits to these companies. "What's really intriguing for us is not the volumes that you can make. It's really more how rapidly you can make changes," said Nike's Mr Kohatsu.