AMS Spring 2023

Hush Puppies Get Even More Comfortable with Voxel8’s 3D Printed Midsoles

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If you look up the term “casual footwear” in the dictionary, chances are you’ll see a pair of shoes with the Hush Puppies logo on it. The globally recognized footwear brand is a division of Wolverine World Wide, Inc., one of the world’s top marketers and licensors of branded casual, active lifestyle, work, outdoor sport, athletic, children’s, and uniform footwear and apparel, including other major brands like Saucony, Sperry, Keds, and more. The brand offers a casual, comfortable style, as well as always looking to innovate to keep its many customers happy. That’s why Hush Puppies announced that it will be commercializing the digital manufacturing technology of venture-backed digital manufacturing company Voxel8, which already has experience 3D printing athletic shoe uppers using its multi-material ActiveLab Digital Fabrication System.

“Hush Puppies is excited to build on our history of comfort innovation with the Voxel8 partnership,” said Kate Pinkham, VP/GM of Hush Puppies. “The brand invented casual 60+ years ago and we are committed to bringing a fresh, innovative approach to the brand as we look to ‘Reinvent Casual’ for the next 60 years.”

Men’s Everyday Lace Up Hush Puppies

In using Voxel8’s sustainable technology, the Hush Puppies brand plans to make its iconic shoes even more comfortable with additional support and longevity by 3D printing unique midsoles, while also offering no-tooling manufacturing as well as reduced design times.

“Our printed lattice structures with precisely tuned mechanical properties are being used as inserts in midsoles to provide enhanced shock absorption. Moreover, we have measured no change in the shock absorption and four times less thickness change after 100,000 cycles, as compared to traditional foams,” Voxel8’s CTO and Co-Founder Travis Busbee explained. “Our sustainable and scalable technology transforms how footwear is developed and produced, with shorter design cycle times and no-tooling manufacturing. Our software-driven digital manufacturing opens the door to cost effective, customized designs in the future.”

Voxel8 was founded in 2014 by an interdisciplinary group of engineers and scientists from Harvard University, with the goal of improving how we design, manufacture, and sell footwear and athletic apparel around the world. Taking advantage of over ten years of research and more than 25 patents regarding the printing of functional features onto fabric, the ActiveLab solution, which was also recently used by Italian fashion manufacturer Eddy Ricami to produce and sell high-fashion accessories, is able to deposit polyurethane and other flexible elastomeric materials, with easily tunable mechanical properties, onto fabrics. This is possible thanks to Voxel8’s innovative ActiveMix printhead, which supports both extrusion and spray deposition.

ActiveLab is an automated, full turnkey solution, including advanced materials, integrated Voxel8 Rhino software plugin, and precision hardware, and allows customers to move quickly from product development through to prototyping and production, which makes it possible to have a critical fast reaction to changing consumer demands and market trends.

“Voxel8 technology is gaining global commercial traction in casual and athletic footwear, and Wolverine and Hush Puppies are valued partners on this journey,” said Friedrich von Gottberg, the CEO of Voxel8. “We are delighted to support new product innovation at Hush Puppies, ramping up production from our facility in Somerville MA and expanding to Asia for volume production.”

According to SmarTech’s 2020 market research report on 3D printed footwear, this particular industry is expected to reach $4.2 billion in revenues by 2025. The more mainstream brands like Hush Puppies adopt 3D printing, the more that number is likely to increase.

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