ManufacturingJanuary 10, 2018

Liberating Design With 3D Printing

Early adopters praise 3D printing for enabling greater design freedom and cost savings.
Avatar 3 Media Web

Early adopters praise 3D printing for enabling greater design freedom, cost savings and faster production times. These advantages are now starting to move beyond the shop floor, and into the shop.

If you want to take up jogging to improve your health and fitness, you’ll probably head to a sports shop and buy a pair of running shoes. But if those shoes are hard on your feet, give you blisters or just aren’t comfortable, you’re unlikely to be running for very long – and you may never buy that brand of running shoes again.

To ensure that its buyers are happy users, Adidas is piloting 3D printing technology to create tailor-made trainer midsoles that support and cushion the precise contours and pressure points of each individual’s feet. Currently a prototype, the company’s Futurecraft 3D concept was created in cooperation with Materialise, an additive manufacturing software and services specialist based in Leuven, Belgium.The idea is that one day you will be able to walk into an Adidas store, hop onto a treadmill, run a bit and be able to order a 3D-printed custom-built running shoe with midsoles that conform to a scan of your foot.“From the very start with 3D printing, the promise of the technology has been enabling freedom of design – to make objects aesthetically better and to allow objects to be optimized for the function they perform instead of the manufacturing process, as evidenced in our partnership with Adidas,” said Alireza Parandian, corporate business development manager for wearables at Materialise. “Freedom of design can also be taken to its highest degree – i.e., individualization.”

A New Way Of Thinking

Unlike traditional manufacturing, which involves cutting away portions of solid materials to create a part, most additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, uses computers and 3D modeling software to build up products layer by layer from various materials, such as plastic, nylon, epoxy and resins or even sheets of paper, into finished products.

The technology is being harnessed to create products for a range of consumer goods industries, including wearables, housewares, eyeglass frames, jewelry, luggage and toys, as well as orthopedics and medicine – and the list is growing rapidly as the use of 3D printing expands into homes and offices. Additive manufacturing experts envision the day when, for example, a consumer with a defective vacuum cleaner part can simply log onto the company’s website, download the CAD file and 3D print a replacement part.

The rapidly expanding field keeps companies like Arcam, based in Mölndal, Sweden, which specializes in electronic beam melting (EBM) machines used mainly in the aerospace and orthopedic implant industries, in continuous evolution.“We started off as a supplier of 3D printing machines to create prototypes, but have become more of a supplier of machines for the shop floor,” said Magnus René, Arcam’s president and CEO.

“Our customers are using our machines for real production applications, which is opening the eyes of other companies and making them understand they can use this method for their own manufacturing. More and more people are realizing additive manufacturing can be a viable production method.”

Continue the conversation by joining our DELMIA Communities on SwYm. Membership is free.

Stay up to date

Receive monthly updates on content you won’t want to miss


Register here to receive a monthly update on our newest content.