Why 3-D Printing Is Picking Up Speed in the Footwear Industry

In a retaillandscape where mass production is the norm, 3-D printing continues to offer unique possibilities.

Shamil Hargovan, CEO and co-founder of Wiivv — which offers its own custom-fit products and also works with brands to bring custom products to the market — said 3-D printing remains a critical harbinger for change.

“Custom-fit doesn’t have to be 3-D-printed, but at the moment, it’s the best answer. It’s the only reliable manufacturing technology available today that allows us to make completely custom one-off shoe parts — even unique from left and right — without cutting new tools or molds,” he explained.

He said that people increasingly want everything immediately and on-demand, and 3-D printing provides just the right fix. “3-D printing affords us the ability to create and deliver products in each continent, with no need for huge central factories,” Hargovan said. “It means we can deliver your custom product in seven days, not a month. It reduces shipping costs and environmental impact, and enables us to invest in local manufacturing.”

Hargovan continued that 3-D printing also results in happier customers. “Offering a custom-fit product not only answers the question that all online shoppers have, (for example, ‘will this fit?’) but also improves the way you feel and function while wearing the product, adding a whole new level of value,” he said.

Casey Kerrigan, chairman of OESH Shoes — a brand that prints the entire sole for its sandals — forecasted that 3-D printing will continue to make waves. “The biomechanics and comfort achieved with a 3-D-printed elastomeric sole are far better than what can be achieved with a sole made using traditional manufacturing practices,” she said. “And of course, footwear made using 3-D printing allows the possibility of customizing footwear based not just on fit but also on an individual’s biomechanics.”

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