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With footwear, 3D printing has been making some serious headway, as numerous brands experiment with 3D printed orthotics and midsoles. In its report, “3D-Printed Footwear 2020-2030, an Analysis of the Market Potential of 3D Printing in the Footwear Industry”, SmarTech Analysis projects 3D printing in footwear to generate over US $4.2 billion in annual revenues in 2025.
To really make an impact, however, more than just the midsoles need to be printed. The soft uppers have not been as easy to tackle with 3D printing. For the most part, additive manufacturing (AM) is more of a hard-materials, rather than soft-materials, technology. For this reason, 3D printing has found its way into fashion in an awkward manner, mostly via high concept, plastic pieces that would struggle to make it into consumer wares.
One major manufacturer that seems focused on tackling these limitations is adidas, which seems to have made the most progress in terms of releasing consumer products with 3D-printed features. The brand’s Futurecraft line has seen a number of 3D printed midsoles hit virtual shelves over the past several years and the latest pair of sneakers in the collection includes soft uppers made using an autonomous weaving robot.
A custom-built weaving …
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