INESCOP submits 10 regional projects to promote footwear innovation
INESCOP has submitted 10 regional projects to be developed throughout 2019. These projects prove its commitment to research and digitalisation, sustainability and advanced materials development to promote innovation among Valencian Region’s footwear companies. This commitment reveals the technological centre’s great work of transferring knowledge and turning it into opportunities for companies, particularly footwear firms, in the process of digital and sustainable transformation.
The Valencian Region is the Spanish leading footwear producer and exporter, and its companies (most of them SMEs) are in direct competition with foreign companies from countries such as France, Germany and Italy. Hence the vital importance of SMEs to innovate with technological support from centres as INESCOP. This centre contributes to strengthening the footwear sector, and to complying with current legislation and European industrial and sustainable development policies via its different R&D lines.
In this regard, and with a view to improving Valencian Region’s companies competitiveness, INESCOP, with the support of the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness (IVACE), boosts three lines of research related to advanced materials development, state-of-the-art technologies and advanced production process implementation, via ERDF’s ‘Valencia’ Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 period. The objective is to contribute to a competitive and sustainable footwear industry.
Functional, safe and bio-materials
There are so many materials as potential for innovation. In this line, INESCOP is developing different projects to adapt footwear characteristics to user’s needs and safety as well as its relationship with the environment. In this sense, INESCOP investigates in materials that reduce footwear thermal stress and avoid discomfort feeling caused by excess cold or heat in feet. To this end, footwear prototypes for different weather conditions will be designed and manufactured. Moreover, the centre will improve a procedure to assess thermal comfort including the physical characterisation of materials and finished footwear, and the study of user interaction in a significant environment, by means of state-of-the-art technologies such as infrared thermography (IRT) and thermal foot technique.
According to UE environmental policies for circular economy that encourage waste recovery, and given that the footwear sector produces tonnes of waste that are sent to landfills, INESCOP has developed a methodology to obtain hydrolysed collagen. This collagen can be used as a retanning agent in the tanning process, thus applying circular economy principles in the leather industry.
Likewise, the use of glue is essential in certain industrial sectors. However, raw materials employed in glue formulations come from non-renewable fossil resources. In terms of sustainability, INESCOP and AIMPLAS (Technological Institute for Plastics) are doing research into glue obtained from renewable sources that can be employed in sectors such as footwear, building and transport.
Regarding components, the heel is perhaps one of the most delicate shoe parts because of the functional challenge it poses. This is due to the fact that the heel modifies human gait in that gait adapts from the functional point of view to keep body balance and to maximise footstep stability. Thus, foot’s positional changes will be analysed according to different shank curves (foot curve in relation to the ground depending on heel height). Moreover, on the basis of morphological knowledge, recommendations will be given for the production of shoes with ideal heel heights, thereby contributing to improving footwear comfort and functionality.
However, not only functionality is INESCOP’s subject matter, but also footwear user’s safety. This is because the presence of chemical substances in manufacturing processes and/or treatments to which footwear materials are subjected, may pose a risk for consumers. This is the case, for example, of formaldehyde, which is considered to be a contact sensitiser and allergenic substance that can be found in leather and textiles. For this reason, INESCOP is working to adapt a methodology to determine formaldehyde migration after direct and prolonged contact with leather materials during footwear usage.
The speed at which materials are developing, is forcing to adapt technologies. In fact, the increasing use of polymeric materials has compelled INESCOP to investigate technologies that guarantee adequate bonding, particularly in upper-sole joints, as is the case of plasma treatment. Indeed, not only to improve bonding and sustainability is expected from this technology, but also to fulfil requirements of strength, wettability, durability, etc.
Furthermore, and after the successful set up and validation of leather biodegradation and composting measuring equipment, INESCOP is now working in its fine-tuning and availability. This will allow the industry to know in advance the sustainability level of leather.
Robots that apply surface treatment through plasma to improve sole adhesion, sensors that enhance company’s management and productivity, and digital materials globally accessible... INESCOP’s advanced manufacturing area, always a step ahead of the industry, is working on the continuous improvement of production processes in order to reduce costs, adapt working environments to make them more worker-friendly, and also to increase companies’ competitiveness.
In that regard, INESCOP investigates the robotic application of atmospheric plasma in the production line, replacing current surface treatments (sanding, roughing, halogenation, primer application), and thus ensuring a stable treatment, repetitive in quality and surface, that improves workers’ environment and turns out to be environmentally sustainable by the elimination of toxic waste.
In addition, and thanks to the emerging IoT technology, it is possible to achieve finished footwear’s traceability. In this way, INESCOP is researching into the integration of non-invasive devices into shoemaking lasts to get real-time information about the manufacturing process.
Finally, the possibility of exchanging digital materials from wherever you work will become a reality thanks to the web platform prototype that INESCOP is developing. Though this prototype, it will be possible to gain access, exchange and visualise materials in real time worldwide. Design and decision-making processes will be sped up thanks to this technology, which will also make it possible to prepare online catalogues, contributing to reducing costs and resources, and, therefore, to improving process sustainability.
Projects submitted to an official IVACE call addressed to Valencian Region’s technological centres to develop non-economic R&D projects in cooperation with companies for the fiscal year 2019.