3D Printed Footwear to Generate $4.2 Billion by 2025

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SmarTech Analysis has put out its latest report about additive manufacturing (AM) in the footwear industry, titled “3D-Printed Footwear 2020-2030, an Analysis of the Market Potential of 3D Printing in the Footwear Industry.” According to the report, 3D printing for footwear is expected to reach $4.2 billion in revenues by 2025.

While it has long been used for design and prototyping purposes, AM for footwear has been gaining traction as a means of producing end parts, with an increasing number of large brands exploring the use of the technology for 3D printing midsoles and insoles. Even 3D printed shoe uppers are becoming a reality. The trend seems to indicate that large-scale mass production of footwear components using 3D printing is just around the corner.

In fact, according to SmarTech, end use parts will represent $3 billion of the total footwear sector by 2028, with uppers experiencing the quickest growth. So far, uppers have struggled the most in terms of printability, due to the fact that they are traditionally made from cloth, a material not easily managed by 3D printing.

Voxel8 has developed a technology for printing material onto fabric, specifically for uppers. One design studio has used continuous vat photopolymerization for 3D printing complete shoes. SmarTech claims that 3D printing of uppers via thermoplastic extrusion and powder bed fusion (PBF) in limited or serial production presents a crucial opportunity.

Uppers 3D-printed by Voxel8’s Active Lab solution. Image courtesy of Voxel8.

At the moment, vat photopolymerization has been perhaps the most widely used process for 3D printing end parts for shoes. The partnership between Carbon and Adidas has been the most significant in this regard, with the apparel maker using Carbon’s continuous digital light processing technique to produce shoe components in large batches.

SmarTech sees vat photopolymerization remaining the dominant technology in footwear over the next ten years, but sees PBF increasing its presence, nearly growing to the same market share as vat photopolymerization by 2028. The market research firm anticipates PBF machines sold to the footwear industry valuing $154 million by 2028, compared to vat photopolymerization reaching $176 million. PBF is thought to play a role in mass customization of insoles, midsoles and footwear more generally.

The Adidas Futurecraft sole. Image courtesy of Carbon.

The SmarTech report explores the industry fully, providing revenue opportunities throughout the segment as it discusses the effects of 3D printing on production, from prototyping to tooling and final part production. Included in the report is an analysis of AM hardware, materials, services and software are transforming alongside footwear.

For the first time in this edition of the report, SmarTech has provided a geographic breakdown with forecasts for each segment of the industry, including hardware, materials and applications. In particular, there are in-depth, data-driven analyses and projections of final parts and revenues for 3D printing of midsoles, insoles and uppers across the coming ten years.

We’ve seen numerous leaders in sports apparel turn to 3D printing for end parts, including Adidas, Nike, Reebok, New Balance, Under Armour and Timberland, all supported by companies familiar to the 3D printing industry, such as Carbon, voxeljet, HP, Voxel8, Kings3D, Formlabs, Stratasys, 3D Systems, EOS, Prodways, BASF, and German RepRap. To provide the most up-to-date information about the endeavors pursued by these entities, SmarTech has interviewed them extensively.

To learn more about the report and for its table of contents, visit the SmarTech Analysis website.

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