Jun 6, 2017 | By Benedict

3D printing company Prodways Group, a subsidiary of Groupe Gorgé, says it is developing 3D printed footwear technology that is being used by companies like sportswear giant Nike. Prodways says its “proven 3D technologies” can produce printed outsoles, midsoles, and insoles to rival traditionally made alternatives.

It might not have the most fashionable name, but French 3D printing company Prodways is going from strength to strength at the moment. The company raised over 50 million euros with its IPO launch on Euronext Paris a few weeks ago, reflecting the public interest in technology like the ProMaker P1000 laser sintering 3D printer and giving Prodways the opportunity to scale up its 3D printing operations. Not long prior, the company unveiled its ProMaker LD 3D printer series for the dental industry.

In an exciting new development, Prodways today announced that it is taking a step into 3D printed footwear, developing 3D printed outsoles, midsoles, and insoles. It says these 3D printed footwear elements offer “higher performance, complex textures, and customized design and properties across the sole that offer a competitive alternative to traditional manufacturing processes.”

At the center of this potentially important 3D printed footwear development is a so-called “revolutionary elastomeric material for additive manufacturing,” designed for laser sintering 3D printers like the ProMaker P1000.

The proprietary thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material, which is being used by customers like sportswear giant Nike, offers “superior elongation at break capacity of over 300 percent,” enabling the 3D printing of ultra-flexible mid-soles with higher fatigue resistance while eliminating the time and cost of tooling. Shore hardness can be varied depending on energy input, allowing “variable density for each area of the midsole.” The material is also suitable for printing lattice structures, which are commonplace in 3D printed footwear.

Although many companies are currently experimenting with 3D printed footwear, Prodways’ efforts are notable for their inclusion of insoles and outsoles, with most competitors focusing squarely on the midsole.

Prodways says its exclusive MOVINGLight additive manufacturing technology, combined with its proprietary 3D printing material, is being used to 3D print resistant composite molds, which in turn can be used to inject or compress a series of outsoles with “tailored designs and complex textures.” These molds can be ready for production within just a few hours.

Another area of focus for the French 3D printing company is 3D printed insoles for its footwear. Commercially launched in January 2017, Prodways’ ScientiFeet division offers podiatrists a “fully integrated solution” from foot scanner impression to 3D printing of the end product.

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

Though Prodways customer Nike may be lagging slightly behind competitors New Balance and Under Armour in the 3D printing game—both companies have already released 3D printed athletic shoes in limited quantities—the Oregon-headquartered sportswear giant has previously signaled its interest in additive manufacturing with a high-profile partnership with HP. Now, using Prodways 3D printing materials, it could take the final step needed to release its own commercially available 3D printed shoe.

“Prodways’ TPU material has been an excellent addition to our Rapid Prototyping operations,” commented Harleigh Doremus of Nike’s Rapid Prototyping department. “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.”

Collaborations between 3D printing companies and sportswear brands are increasing by the day. Just yesterday, fellow Massachusetts companies Formlabs and New Balance announced a collaboration that will see the former using its Form 2 SLA 3D printers to create 3D printed footwear for the latter.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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