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CAD/CAM Technologies


Digitisation in the footwear industry is already a fact thanks to the implementation of CAD/CAM technologies

The emergence of new CAD/CAM technologies for digital design of every element involved in footwear, starting from the last (base element on which the rest are conformed), followed by the construction of soles, heels, wedges, insoles, etc. and in the end the whole shoes, is revolutionising footwear design and manufacture.

Digital design opens new possibilities in all life cycle stages of footwear:
  • Design stage: discarding models with no need to manufacture prototypes
  • Manufacture stage: pre-calculating costs and connecting digital designs with automatic and semi-automatic manufacturing machines.
  • Marketing stage: obtaining virtual samples and even digital tools so that users can customise their designs.


We are a world reference in the development of CAD/CAM technologies for footwear, which is one of our main research lines


Our current research lines range from last customisation to advanced tools for design and manufacture, such as 3D-2D connected design, virtual and augmented reality, and direct connection to additive manufacturing, etc.


Research on lasts has traditionally been targeted to give solutions to last makers. Nowadays, we work to broaden the scope of this research to footwear manufacturers.

Thus, the main working lines are focused on boosting footwear customisation; on the one hand with editing and reshaping tools for specific areas on the base last and, on the other, with last-foot comparative analyses that help finding the most adequate last as regards size and width using configurable matching systems after prior digitisation of the user’s feet.


3D printing of footwear lasts for footwear prototyping, in particular, for the production of hinged lasts that are able to withstand forces applied by last pulling machines (to remove the last from the shoe) with the aim of achieving balance between resistance, lightness and manufacturing speed.


The pieces constituting the shoes, regardless of whether they are made of leather, synthetic materials, textiles, etc. are cut on a flat surface to be stitched and assembled on the last afterwards. For this reason, in order to connect design with manufacture, it is necessary to correctly flatten the surfaces of such last following the technical considerations of footwear, as well as the different manufacturing methods: Strobel, moccasin, etc. INESCOP carries out research on mathematical algorithms for free surface flattening that imitate manual flattening systems and have become a world reference in this field. With this system it is possible to work with 2D and 3D designs at the same time and link them directly to manufacturing process.


Design of customised insoles is currently being investigated, with the aim of adapting them to the morphology of the patient’s foot and to treatments prescribed by podiatrists. Customised insoles are perfectly adapted to each user’s foot and are conformed from the digitisation of positive and negative foot shapes and adapting different metatarsal additions, lateral and medial heel skives, several types of unloading pieces and other editing options.

As for soles, we work on the creation of a set of tools to simplify the design of each sole part, as well as its grading and manufacturing taking into account ergonomic and antimicrobial aspects. A system of parametric curves for the structural design has been developed, and research is being done on tools for achieving material savings in moulds, and on 3D textures from 2D designs, deformation, etc.


Footwear models are designed upon digital lasts, resulting in a rigid appearance. Global editing software tools are being developed to relax digital models and to replicate effects such as delasting, internal foam rubber, material flexibility, etc. Some examples include deformers based on relief maps, normals, and the like.


In footwear a great variety of materials is used, either organic or inorganic, such as leather, synthetics, textiles, metals, etc. Digitising these materials with a high realism level is fundamental to obtain high quality virtual contents. Our research is now focused on obtaining the basic information of these materials quickly and very accurately, which is necessary for their digitisation, in terms of colour maps, roughness, transparency, brightness, etc. through controlled photographic environments and specific software.


Thanks to the technological evolution of the sector, more and more companies have included high quality virtual content, which means a unique opportunity for companies to exploit web-based technologies in search of new business models; not only for online sales of customised footwear, but also for the creation of entire virtual collections aimed at sales representatives as a marketing and advertising tool, and as a support for the decision-making process or even for trend analysis.

All this leads us to the need of conducting research in this field and thus to have enough knowledge and experience to provide the best possible advice to companies. We are working on the integration and optimisation of high quality digital information for use in web platforms, as well as on the definition of architecture for web 2.0 platforms that allow the customised generation of material combiners and their application to different business models. This system could be adapted and integrated into different devices and software platforms.



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