The German RepRap industrial-grade X400 3D printer has been used to develop all sorts of products, from a helicopter windshield wiper system to spare parts for lifting platforms, and even breast prostheses. The printer’s next iteration, the X400 PRO V3, was introduced in 2015, and offered a greater flexibility in printing filaments and dual extruders. Recently, German RepRap’s Italian reseller, 3DZ, which helped the Italian Center for Sustainability, Energy, Environment and Mobility (CSEEM) get a professional metal 3D printer back in 2015, teamed up with the Italy-based Footwear Polytechnic of Riviera del Brenta to provide the school with a X400 PRO V3 for a new product development opportunity: shoes.
The school was founded back in 2001, in Italy’s Veneto Region, by the long Brenta shoemaker tradition, which can trace its roots back to Venice in 1268. The footwear district, home to the Footwear Polytechnic, was developed by entrepreneur Luigi Voltan in the late 1800s; Voltan founded the territory’s first major shoe factory in a Venetian province. In the 1920s, the school of Design for Arts and Crafts focused on training shoe technicians, designers, and model makers, and now, the Footwear Polytechnic continues this tradition, updating it with today’s most innovative research and technology.
The Footwear District of Riviera del Brenta is home to over 500 companies, where roughly 20 million pairs of beautiful shoes, mostly for women, are produced each year. Shoemakers and designers go to the Footwear Polytechnic for training. In September of 2016, the Footwear Polytechnic launched its Factory of the Future, or FFLab, a digital rapid prototyping laboratory that specializes in the latest 3D printing and scanning technologies.
That’s where 3DZ comes in: the German RepRap reseller supported the institute and provided the FFLab with the X400 PRO V3 3D printer, as well as the Geomagic Capture 3D scanner, so the school can continue to focus on training, research, and rapid prototyping with the best equipment for its needs.
“We have turned to 3DZ for the prior knowledge of the capabilities of this company, the equipment quality, the availability and excellent service,” said Alice Marcato, bio-engineer with the Footwear Polytechnic R&D department and FFLab manager. “Thanks to their on-site training, two people of the staff have been instructed about the proper use of the new equipment.”
The mission of the FFLab is to foster growth in the regional footwear industry, and assist other companies in experimenting and developing up-to-date production models using the latest technologies, like 3D printing and scanning. The FFLab wants to help young graduates gain the necessary modern skills that will help them enter the workforce, assist teachers, executives, technicians, and entrepreneurs in upgrading their skills, and give a leg up to the shoe sector’s unemployed workers, who could use the innovative skills being taught at the Footwear Polytechnic to get new jobs.
The FFLab designs its footwear components using 3D CAD technology, and prints them using the X400 PRO V3. 3D printing allows the institute to create, with more affordable costs and a quicker timeline, an aesthetic shoe model, a functional shoe model, and a small production series, all necessary for sampling and fashion shows.
Marcato explains, “The components prototyping regards parts which make up the shoe such as forms, insoles, heels, soles, and accessories. All can be realized in reduced times.”
The other method utilized by the FFLab is reverse engineering. Both of these innovative technologies let the Footwear Polytechnic meet the needs and demands of companies that “cater to the institute.”
The Veneto region specializes in designing and manufacturing quality products, but generally lacks the technology, internal professional skills, and equipment to be truly competitive in terms of reducing production time and costs. Now, companies that may not be able to create 3D printed components on their own can utilize the FFLab and provide their own STL files for shoe components, such as heels and soles, or bring the object itself and have it scanned, modified if necessary, and 3D printed. Discuss in the German RepRap forum at 3DPB.com.
“3D printing will move from mere prototyping of parts to complex design, from development to production; companies will probably exploit these technologies to its own production of components, especially thanks to the release of new materials, more resistant and sought selected, and the increasing reduction of production times,” said Marcato, when asked about the future development of 3D printing.
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