Additive manufacturing may increase competiveness of the footwear industry, since it provides more technically and functionally advanced components that offer an immediate response to the changing market needs
Additive manufacturing is able to transform virtual models into physical ones in an easy and fast way by material addition.
Among the different additive manufacturing technologies, 3D printing by FMD (Fusion Deposition Modelling) is particularly interesting, due to the adequate accuracy and reduced cost of this type of 3D printers.
ADVANTAGES OF ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
- Ability to virtually build any geometry
- Directly from the 3D model
- No need for additional production tooling
- No more constraints related to methods such as machining, die-cutting, injection, etc.
- Product customisation with no extra costs in the manufacturing process
- Development of functionalised products
WITH REGARD TO MATERIALS
Materials used in footwear manufacturing may include additivated materials with different particles so that they acquire anti-friction, hydrophobic or antimicrobial properties.
WITH REGARD TO GEOMETRIES
It is possible to generate components having zone-control structures to modify the shock absorption properties of the shoe.
Thanks to these advantages, additive manufacturing can increase the competitiveness of the footwear industry by promoting the development of more technically and functionally advanced components that offer an immediate response to the changing market needs and meet the costumer’s increasing demand for differentiation and customisation.
MAIN RESEARCH LINES
ADAPTATION OF CAD TOOLS FOR 3D PRINTING
The CAD process has been subject to the inherent limitations of traditional manufacturing methods, since the product design must be made considering how and by what means it is going to be manufactured. The emergence of additive manufacturing has put an end to these limitations, and therefore, it is necessary to provide specific design tools that can take full advantage of the possibilities that this manufacturing method entails. In line with this, INESCOP aims to develop CAD design tools that can be used along with 3D printing and can be implemented by footwear companies, especially those with state-of-the-art and quite restrictive technologies, such as Polyjet 3D printing.
To this end, INESCOP has renovated its tools to conform to this new working mechanism. In order to prevent any problem in additive manufacturing, the most important aspect is acquiring an adequate geometry. A 3D model should have a ‘watertight’ volume, which means that it must not have any hole, crack or lack of features. The easiest way to describe a good mesh for 3D printing is to think of it as a skin covering a space filled with water. It is important to create watertight meshes, so that the 3D printer can distinguish the inner part (which needs to be constituted by a 3D printing material) from the outer part. We are devoted to simplifying the process through our applications so that customers do not have to deal with these problems.
FUNCTIONALISATION OF PRODUCTS BY ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
Additive manufacturing provides footwear with new properties by introducing modifications in the 3D design. In this sense, INESCOP seeks to establish design procedures that can modify anti-slip, cushioning and hardness properties, and make them available for the companies of the sector.
FUNCTIONALISATION OF PRODUCTS THROUGH PRINTING MATERIAL
Another substantial research line as regards additive manufacturing is the functionalisation of 3D printing materials. The properties envisaged are of great relevance for certain production environments. One example of this is providing the manufacturing material of footwear outsoles with antimicrobial properties so as to avoid biological contamination caused by the movement of operators.