Prodways Group opens up new horizons for 3D-printed footwear

Prodaways’ MOVINGLight technology for the printing of composite outsole moulds

Prodways Groupa French industrial 3D printing company, has announced the commercial development of a portfolio which addresses several areas of footwear manufacturing.

The portfolio consists of a new elastomeric material, a fully integrated solution for the printing of insoles, and the company’s MOVINGLight technology for the printing of composite outsole moulds.

Prodways says it has sought to deliver these solutions as sport shoe manufacturers continue to seek for ways to accelerate product launches and provide performance enhancing benefits to their customers.

Since developing the elastomeric thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material, Prodways has received interest from global sportswear brand, Nike.

The material, which Prodways believes separates itself from the rest due to its superior elongation at break capacity of over 300%, is set to enable manufacturers to make significant changes to their shoe-making processes.

Prodways outlines the material’s ability to enable extremely flexible mid-soles with high fatigue resistance to be 3D printed, saving time and removing the cost of tooling in the process.

This material will also allow companies to print lattice structures in a higher precision, and lighter weight, than can be reached with traditional manufacturing processes. For Nike, the material has so far been leveraged to advance its prototyping efforts.

“Prodways’ TPU material has been an excellent addition to our Rapid Prototyping operations,” said Harleigh Doremus, Nike Rapid Prototyping. “The ease-of-processing of the 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.”

Shoe manufacturers have long been restricted by the inability of traditional moulding techniques to adjust properties across the midsole.

Prodways’ TPU shore hardness can be varied depending on energy input, allowing variable density for each area of the midsole, providing improved performance, and addressing the needs and wants of each particular athlete.

Additionally, Prodways believes its offering of premium laser sintering 3D printers supplements the capabilities of the TPU material, and takes the additive manufacturing of sportswear midsoles to industrial level-standard.

Meanwhile, Prodways is using its MOVINGLight additive manufacturing technology to print resistant composite moulds to inject or compress a series of final outsoles with designs tailored to the user and complex structures which can help to improve performance.

Prodways say MOVINGLight’s combination of high resolution and productivity allows to print production-ready moulds within hours.

Also on Prodways’ agenda through its portfolio is the mass production of bespoke insoles.

ScientiFeet was commercially launched in Januray 2017, and offers podiatrists a fully integrated system, from the scan impression of a foot to the printing of the end product.

The insoles are then delivered to the practitioner’s office before being supplied to the patients. More than 5,000 pairs of ScientiFeet insoles have already been printed.

“Being able to 3D print customised soles for specific pain relief is a game-changer for orthopaedic applications,” said Cyrille Pailleret, General Manager at ScientiFeet. “3D printed insoles are lighter and deliver higher precision to offer a tailor-made treatment to each patient.”

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