Advanced lattice creation for footwear production by AM


Footprint 3D is able to create lattice structures from original CAD files quickly using Simpleware’s lattice generation tools. This way, some common deficiencies found in the footwear industry – such as fit and the environmental impact of waste created in traditional molding processes – are tackled.

Footprint 3D’s core mission is to build ‘fashion forward footwear’ that provides ergonomic customization and support designed to maximize comfort and functionality for the user. End-use parts can be produced in a variety of thermoplastic polyurethane powders for SLS as well as elastomeric resins for DLP/SLA printing systems.

3D scan data and customization

So how does it work? Footprint 3D takes 3D scan data of a customer or patient’s feet and creates custom-made soles that allow for proper ergonomic support. In addition, the design for original soles that are mapped to a user’s feet can be be optimized in Simpleware with the input of podiatrists and foot care professionals.

Did you know?
In order to save time and money, Footprint 3D designers often remove the soles from existing shoes, and use the upper to test new outsole and midsole designs. This requires heating the shoes in a toaster oven to soften the heat activated glues commonly found in mass produced footwear. Acetone is then used to dissolve the glue, and the knit upper is pulled off of the sole to facilitate the use of the knit upper for testing purposes.

The creation of lattice structures based on these original solid STL files is straightforward and accurate and allows for quick creation and modification of certain areas of the lattice based on individual foot and gait characteristics. Areas of the sole that need to be more or less flexible, such as the heel and arch areas, can be thickened or reduced using Simpleware’s morphological 3D editing tools.

Reducing waste with AM

The company’s original midsole and insole designs incorporate lattice structures that are laser sintered (SLS) out of an advanced TPU powder and coated with a polyurethane finish for durability and waterproofing. This manufacturing process allows Footprint 3D to create an infinitely variable range of size options without ever opening up a mold, thus reducing waste and eliminating excess scrap material created in traditional molding processes.

Early tests indicate that the unique particle bonding of the TPU material, coupled with Simpleware’s lattice creation module, allows energy from each step to be dispersed evenly and at a slower rate, adding stability and reducing the impact on the wearer over time.