World Footwear


How can Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) be used by the footwear and leather goods sectors?

Feb 7, 2023
How can Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) be used by the footwear and leather goods sectors?
Just released! World Footwear Innovation Paper focused on new manufacturing tools available to the footwear and leather goods sectors and understand what 3D printing can do for your business
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has seen disruptive developments over the past few years. These developments are increasingly arousing the interest of varied industries, including the footwear and leather goods industry. The rise of new technologies,  processes, and materials leads to an increase in the number of possible applications in the industry, from production support to the production of final objects.

This document presents and discusses the various types of additive manufacturing technologies and their impact on the footwear industry, focusing on the main advantages and limitations compared to conventional production processes and additive manufacturing techniques. The prototyping stage, one of the main stages in the product development phase, has already realized the potential of these technologies once it can drastically decrease the time and cost to obtain the first prototype. This fact is supported by testimonials of representatives of big fashion brands. The leather goods sector can also highly benefit from the implementation of this technology since it can be applied in product development, tools fabrication, and product personalization, as footwear does. Both may add value to their products by using additive manufacturing to produce personalized ornaments in a broad range of materials, including precious metals.

The working principles and materials of the various additive manufacturing classes are presented, as well as national and international case studies of companies and consortia that already somehow apply this process in the product development process and in the production of components and technical footwear, two of the main areas of great potential. Nevertheless, each company needs to analyze its  implementation regarding the type of technologies and materials available according to the type and function of the products expected tobe produced.

The document ends with a perspective on the future of additive manufacturing technologies in the footwear and leather goods sector. Despite being a challenging exercise, due to the rapid development that the technologies undergo in a few years, such as increases in printing speed, the emergence of new technologies and materials, and a decrease in investment costs, it is an essential exercise for the footwear companies to analyze in terms of the importance of this investment in the various aspects of their business. It is fair to say that the perspectives for the implementation of these technologies in this sector are unlimited.

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Executive Summary
What is additive manufacturing?
Additive manufacturing vs conventional methods
Classes of Additive Manufacturing technologies
Additive Manufacturing in the footwear sector
  Product development
  Production of soles, midsoles and wedges
  Production of components for medical footwear
  Production of uppers
  Whole footwear production
  Production of decorative accessories and customisation
  Production support tools
Future perspective