From head to toe, runway to running track, we’ve witnessed many recent instances where fashion intersects with 3D printing technology. One area that is blossoming into a commercial trend is 3D printed footwear, whether that be in the form of high heel shoes or athletic sneakers. Some of the biggest athletic footwear manufacturers have decided to integrate additive manufacturing into their sneaker production process. For instance, Nike has used 3D printing to refine the design of one of their popular Nike Zoom Superfly Elite sneakers, while New Balance has implemented 3D printed midsoles into their latest running shoes.
Now, the Canton, Massachusetts-headquartered athletic footwear and apparel company Reebok is utilizing a unique twist of 3D printing technology for their latest creation, the Liquid Speed shoe. The newly unveiled shoe takes on an innovative approach to the traditional molding process, using a “high rebound” liquid created by BASF to “draw” frames directly onto the shoe. Designed by Reebok’s new Liquid Factory, the 3D printed frame creates an energy-return outsole, which Bill McInnis, Reebok’s Head of Future and former NASA engineer, claims to provide a drastic performance improvement over the traditional rubber outsole.
The 3D printed winged frame of the Liquid Speed wraps up and around the base of the shoe, creating a tighter fit for the wearer. Reebok uses a unique proprietary 3D printing process to create the shoes, which was developed in collaboration between Reebok, BASF and the Michigan-based reactive resin producer RAMPF Group. The final assembly of the Liquid Speed shoe was performed in Reebok’s home state of Massachusetts. The production process creates a futuristic aesthetic and a performance-enhancing experience for the wearer, while the proprietary technology allows Reebok to customize the design in a quick and efficient manner.
“Footwear manufacturing hasn’t dramatically changed over the last 30 years,” said McInnis. “Every shoe, from every brand is created using molds – an expensive, time-consuming process. With Liquid Factory, we wanted to fundamentally change the way that shoes are made, creating a new method to manufacture shoes without molds. This opens up brand new possibilities both for what we can create, and the speed with which we can create it.”
The Liquid Speed shoes currently cost $189.50 through Reebok and Finishline.com, and are available at a limited run of just 300 pairs. But, with plans to open their own Liquid Factory manufacturing lab early next year, you can expect to see more Reebok sneakers that incorporate their proprietary 3D printing process in the near future. With leading athletic footwear producers like Nike, New Balance, Adidas, and now Reebok throwing their hat in the 3D printing ring, their customers will soon have the full ability to customize both the look and performance of their sneakers. Discuss in the Reebok forum at 3DPB.com.