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The footwear industry has been growing over the years. It is expected that the global market for footwear will reach $371.8 billion by 2020, mainly driven by new design trends and the expanding middle class population. The footwear includes athletic and non-athletic shoes used by individuals of all age groups and genders. The trends demonstrate that there is a demand for trendy yet comfortable footwear in the market.

Shoe manufacturers have been able to use material innovations combined with new technologies to create a wide variety of shoe designs and mass customization. Shoe design technology includes 3D printing of shoes for athletes and for the everyday user. Orthopedists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and podiatrists who use 3D printing in manufacturing are able to acquire R&D Tax Credits towards their business.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the now permanent Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit that typically ranges from 4%-7% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • Must be technological in nature
  • Must be a component of the taxpayer’s business
  • Must represent R&D in the experimental sense and generally includes all such costs related to the development or improvement of a product or process
  • Must eliminate uncertainty through a process of experimentation that considers one or more alternatives

Eligible costs include US employee wages, cost of supplies consumed in the R&D process, cost of pre-production testing, US contract research expenses, and certain costs associated with developing a patent.

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the PATH Act, making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax for companies with revenue below $50MM and for the first time, pre-profitable and pre-revenue startup businesses can obtain up to $250,000 per year in payroll taxes and cash rebates.

With the increased participation in sports and fitness activities there has been a rise in demand for athletic shoes. Innovations with the shoe industry have been made possible due to the advancements and testing in various technologies. Main players in the athletic shoe industry include Nike Inc., Adidas AG, PUMA, GEOX S.p.A., Skechers USA Inc., Under Armour, Inc, Wolverine World Wide, Inc., Timberland, Crocs Retail, Inc., and Ecco Sko A/S.

Orthotic Insoles

Orthotic insoles for shoes can be expensive and time consuming to order but additive manufacturing has been able to change that by printing custom insoles for shoes. These insoles are less expensive and easy to make. Shapecrunch determined that by using additive manufacturing, they are able to custom make insoles for individuals who suffer from diabetes, flat feet and plantar fasciitis. The process consists of the doctor first scanning the patient’s foot and then entering the data into software that takes 3D scans and begins to print them. These 3D printed insoles will provide runners who are suffering with diabetes or other foot ailments with relief.

Run Signature

Brooks is a top brand in specialty running shoes, which has found ways to integrate additive manufacturing computer technology with the running industry. They use FitStation powered by HP which takes measurements of runners’ feet and analyzes their gait. Once the scans are conducted, the technology measures the pressure points along the foot as it lands each stride. The data collected helps determine how much polyurethane should be injected in the shoe’s insole to achieve the right density and comfort for the user. This advanced technology will help customize athletes’ shoes and make their shoes withstand the long run.

Brooks is also working with insole maker Superfeet to enhance the footwear experience. Shoe comfort is important for everyone. A 3D scan of your foot is developed with the latest scanning and gait analysis technology. The image of the scan is then 3D printed to benefit your gait. Superfeet processes the 3D scans and then the data received helps the customer select the best fitting insole for their shoe. These ME3D insoles are all 3D printed and unique to each person’s foot, meant to provide comfort when they are on the move.

Outsoles

Prodways Group, a subsidiary of Groupe Gorgé, has developed insoles, midsoles and outsoles that are easily manufactured and customizable for customers. Prodways Group uses thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) to print flexible soles for runners’ shoes. The midsoles are created to have a high resistance to fatigue at the same time being cost and time effective for end users. The printer that is used is the DLP MOVINGLight which is 3D printing technology that is patented by Prodways. This technology speeds up product launches, providing customized products for users in the shoe market.

How bold are you?

Online shoe company Pungas 3D prints accessories for sneakers. With a mix of art, technology and design, the company is changing the way people wear their sneakers allowing them to transform a product into a field of self- expression. Pungas allows artists to print their own designs on their everyday shoes.

Olympics and 3D Printing

Manufacturers test fabrics and try to discover various ways to improve performance. When it comes to the competitive sports field a few seconds’ difference can be a game changing win or loss. Both New Balance and adidas have tried using 3D printing to improve traction and energy transfer for users’ shoes. Adidas designed shoes specifically for long distance track racing. The soles of the shoes were engineered to be stiff and thin to provide support for runners as they curved around the track. Runner David Rudisha completed an 800m race in just 1 min 42 seconds and walked away with gold for Kenya during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. 3D printed adidas shoes kept him stabilized and prevented him from slowing down on the curves. Shoe technology can clearly improve an athlete’s performance.

Basketball Sneakers

In China, leading professional sports brand Peak used additive manufacturing to print its first pair of running shoes. The comfortable and breathable shoes are made of a lattice structure insole by using a 3D printer. They are lightweight and elastic, providing ease of range of motion and comfort for the wearer. Peak shoes have been worn by NBA player Dwight Howard and they design foot molds for other players as well. Howard raves about the improvements in his performance due to his 3D printed basketball boots:

“This pair of boots has obviously higher performance than traditional ones. I felt that the 3D printed soles and vamp side walls enable a more comfortable wearing experience. Maybe, one day in the future, you’ll see me wearing the 3D printed basketball boots, footwear designed based on R&D carried out by PEAK, during an NBA competition.”

Additive manufacturing continually demonstrates the potential it has for changing the future footwear industry.

Conclusion

Overall demand for footwear never ceases to go out of style. Today, shoe manufacturers are using advanced technologies to advance their products. Consumers of footwear vary across the market, from every day users who wish to style their shoes to the athlete competing in their next Olympic games. The advent of new technologies is advancing the footwear industry.  Shoe designers, orthopedists and businesses that are involved in 3D printing may be eligible for R&D Tax credits.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 


Charles Goulding and Alize Margulis of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printed shoes.

 

 

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