3D Printing in Retail – Leveraging AM for Mass Customisation and Optimising Production

Additive manufacturing technology has proven time and time again that its benefits are vast and abundant in a wide variety of industries. Included in those sectors is the consumer goods industry, which covers retail items such as clothing and shoes. Though they may not

always be in the spotlight, there are indeed companies making the move into 3D printing such products, and the sustainability and customizability benefits are worth noting.

Would you wear 3D printed shoes?

Perhaps the biggest of the names is sports goods manufacturer Adidas, who has repeatedly collaborated with 3D printer manufacturer Carbon to fabricate a range of additively manufactured sports shoes. The latest in the line is what Adidas has described as the

“ultimate” 3D printed running shoe, the STRUNG. The STRUNG features the latest iteration

of the company’s Futurecraft insoles, which are printed using flexible photopolymer resin on

a Carbon DLS 3D printer.

The manufacturer’s new data-oriented approach relies on 3D foot scanning technology to get an exact measurement of a runner’s foot. Then, combining proprietary software and

Carbon’s technology, the company can model the geometry of the footwear to the exact contours of the individual’s foot. As a result, the insole is not only more comfortable but is reportedly healthier to wear for long periods of time.

Another major name in the market space is multinational footwear giant New Balance, who

previously updated its TripleCell 3D printing platform with the addition of a new sneaker - the

FuelCell Echo Triple. The footwear initially launched with a retail price of $175 and features a completely 3D printed forefoot, which is the section under the ball of the feet. Much like

Adidas’ products, the FuelCell’s 3D printed portion is made of a flexible resin on a Formlabs

3D printer.

On top of being able to show off the admittedly cool-looking geometry only possibly with an additive process, users also benefit from a significant weight reduction of 10% as material use is optimized. Since the padding is only printed where it needs to be, the design is

significantly more efficient than its traditionally manufactured counterpart, granting environmental benefits on top of the production cost savings.

AM in the eyewear sector

Much like 3D printed shoes, the eyewear sector has also seen a 3D printed rebuff. Luxexcel,

a specialist in the 3D printing of lenses for prescription glasses, only recently announced plans to grow further into the smart glasses market with a revamped leadership team. The company’s previously developed proprietary technology is able to integrate smart features into eyewear lenses, resulting in “fashionable smart glasses”. The idea is that its customers

– technology companies – will be able to manufacture their smart eyewear products while also providing vision correction functionality for users that may need it.

Additive manufacturing software developer Materialise also recently invested in Ditto, a

producer of online eyewear try-on services, enabling customers to browse bespoke 3D

printable frames through Ditto’s online shop. The company’s proprietary software allows for

the creation of a precise digital twin of an individual’s face so they can ‘try on’ frames online

before even purchasing anything.

Booming with AM

The technology has even managed to penetrate the audio industry, as a Czech design studio

DEEPTIME was known for 3D printing the first commercially available speakers made from