Global footwear giants Nike and Adidas are using 3D printing to speed up innovation in their shoe soles.
The Financial Times reports that 3D printing is being used to make and modify plastic soles and cleats in football and running shoes. Shoes made using additive manufacturing are not available from the companies to the public at this stage.
Shane Kohatsu, the director of innovation at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon in the United States, said the technique greatly sped up the development of the company’s Vapor Laser Talon boot for gridiron player.
“Within six months we were able to go through 12 rounds of prototype iterations that we fully tested, and ultimately we were able to make super dramatic improvements to our products,” he told the Financial Times.
“What’s really intriguing for us is not the volumes that you can make. It’s really more how rapidly you can make changes.”
Germany’s Adidas is also using additive manufacturing to speed up its prototyping. Prototypes used to be handmade by a dozen staff. This job can now be done more quickly by two people.
Meanwhile, online store Amazon.com has announced a 3D printer section on its website, allowing customers to buy personal 3D printers, accessories and 3D modelling software.
The market for these products is expected to nearly triple in the next five years. Research from SmarTech Markets Publishing estimates, in US dollars, that “sales of 3D printing hardware, software and services will be worth $1.8 billion in 2013, growing to around $5.1 billion by 2018.”