The French company Prodways has announced the commercial development of a portfolio of 3D printing solutions for the footwear industry.
The last few years have seen the company develop 3D printing technologies and materials for the efficient manufacture of outsoles, midsoles and insoles, seeking to meet the industry’s demand for enhanced performance, acceleration of product launches and customization.
MOVINGLight DLP technology for composite outsole molds
Prodways’s MOVINGLight digital light processing (DLP) technology is being used to print composite outsole molds for injecting or compressing a series of final outsoles that feature tailored designs and complex textures for improved performance.
As oppose to slow and expensive traditional metal mold tooling processes, MOVINGLight allows for the printing of molds that are ready for production in a few hours. This, in turn, shortens time-to-market.
TPU-70A laser sintering material for midsoles
Prodways has introduced a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laser sintering material, referred to as TPU-70A, that has garnered interest from a number of leading sportswear brands including Nike.
TPU-70A is said to ‘stand out’ owing to an impressive elongation at break capacity of between 300 and 350 percent. It therefore enables the printing of ultra-flexible midsoles that demonstrate high fatigue resistance.
The material and the laser sintering process combined deliver a high level of precision in order to print lattice structures not achievable using traditional molding processes, thus resulting in lighter insoles that afford improved performance.
Additionally, the capacity to adjust properties across the midsole is restricted in the case of traditional molding processes, but the shore hardness of TPU-70A can be varied according to laser energy input, resulting in variable density across the sole’s different areas. This too allows for improved performance as well as the ability to address the needs of each sport and/or individual athlete.
Harleigh Doremus, rapid prototyping innovator at Nike, commented: ‘Prodways’s TPU material has been an excellent addition to our rapid prototyping operations. 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.’
ScientiFeet solution for on-demand custom insoles
In January 2017, Prodways launched ScientiFeet, a fully integrated solution for podiatrists that enables on-demand production of custom insoles. It encompasses all of the necessary process steps, from taking the initial scan impression of the foot to the final printing of the insole.
More than 5,000 pairs of ScientiFeet insoles have been produced so far. Once printed, the insoles are delivered to the podiatrist, ready for use by their patient.
Cyrille Pailleret, general manager at ScientiFeet, commented: ‘Being able to 3D print customized [in]soles for specific pain relief is a game-changer for orthopedic applications. [They] are lighter and deliver higher precision to offer a tailor-made treatment to each patient.’