Additive Accelerator Partners with Telic, Will Build Custom Mass Production Line for 3D Printed Flip Flops

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Many footwear firms are looking to 3D printing at the moment. Boise, Idaho-based Telic makes recovery shoes. Their soft flip flops with arch support and energy return are meant to help athlete’s feet recover after races. For the rest of us, Telic’s footwear distributes your weight across the sole evenly to give you a more comfortable flip flop. Telic wants to use 3D printing in production in order to manufacture their flip flops to the exact right size of the wearer. The company hoped that precise sizing would improve the functionality of their flip flops. 

3D printers are just boxes, however. There is no such thing as a 3D printing production line for flip flops or even footwear. Typically when companies want to mass produce using 3D printing, they have to experiment extensively in-house with prototyping and ever-larger runs. Once this has been done for many months, many 3D printed parts will have to be carried from 3D printer to finishing and post finishing station by hand. A lot of the powder removal and cleaning of parts happens by hand. This is why so much of the part cost of 3D printed goods is in manual labor, perhaps up to a third. Even when Dye Mansion or other more automated finishing solutions are deployed, such as by Post Process or AMT, parts have to be moved in batches by hand between machines. Manufacturers are working towards moving away from the box architecture towards more manufacturing-ready 3D printers. 3D Systems wants a line in a box approach through Figure 4 for example, Formlabs wants automation plus clusters of machines while EOS is offering us more automation in its massive 500 line systems and also a more integration-ready modular 3D printer in the Integra. For Telic and other firms, more 3D printing automation and post-processing efficiency are on the way. Still, companies will have to design develop and make their own lines at the moment while at the same time learning what design for additive means and also figuring out how to use 3D printing for mass production. It’s kind of like learning Hungarian on a unicycle while juggling.  

Alan Guyan, who used to be Under Armour’s Innovation Director who created and manufactured their lines of 3D printed shoes, has set up Additive Accelerator to design and develop 3D printed parts for mass production. In addition to the Dfam portion of the work, Additive Accelerator will also handle the production and manufacturing of parts at scale or even design and develop entire mass production lines for 3D printed products. By taking customers from ideation all the way to millions of parts, Additive Accelerator has a unique way to approach the market. There are consultants that will help you get started, but no one focuses on from idea to mass production now. At the same time, no one can do both Dfam and also the design and manufacturing of the equipment and processes needed for the production line. Potentially this will make a market entry for many firms much faster while reducing the cost of final parts. 

Additive Accelerator and Telic are now partnering to bring manufacturing at scale to the footwear market. A custom production line capable of making mass customized 3D printed soles could let Telic get the drop on much larger firms wanting to use 3D printing at large volumes.    

Rocco Azzarito, CEO of Telic, states, 

“My grandfather Frank was a shoemaker from Southern Italy and learned how to make shoes one at a time from his father. Rather than use generic sizing, he would custom build shoes according to precise foot measurements; consequently, the fit was always perfect. Today, 3D printing allows us to custom build shoes one at a time as Frank did, for a perfect fit every time. 3D print manufacturing is the future of footwear.

I really like this method of approaching the market. An integrated ‘part to production’ approach would seem to be an efficient way to get to production. At the same time, there are no systems integrators for 3D printing. Only Additive Accelerator (for polymers) and SMS Group (for metals) are in the business of building customized integrated manufacturing solutions for 3D printed goods.  

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