3D printed shoes are nothing new; we’ve already seen a number of limited editions of these. However, employing a 3D drawing technique while rethinking the traditional molding process is definitely something new, thanks to Reebok, which wants to change the process and speed of footwear manufacturing with its groundbreaking innovation called Liquid Factory.
Using robotics and state-of-the-art technology, Liquid Factory draws shoes in 3D. A special “high rebound” liquid created by BASF is used to draw shoe “componentry cleanly, precisely and in three-dimensional layers.” Using this proprietary layering technique, they are going to create entirely unique and high-performance athletic footwear faster and more proficiently than ever before. And what is more interesting about this manufacturing process is they are not going to use the traditional molds.
“Footwear manufacturing hasn’t dramatically changed over the last 30 years,” said Bill McInnis, Head of Future at Reebok and a former NASA engineer. “Every shoe, from every brand is created using molds – an expensive, time-consuming process. With Liquid Factory, we wanted to fundamentally change the way that shoes are made, creating a new method to manufacture shoes without molds. This opens up brand new possibilities both for what we can create, and the speed with which we can create it.”
According to this former NASA engineer, this high-energy liquid material helps to create the first ever energy-return outsole that dramatically performs better compared to a typical rubber outsole. Besides, the liquid speeds winged frame makes for a tighter fit in all directions by wrapping up and over the shoe.
“One of the most exciting things about Liquid Factory is the speed. We can create and customize the design of shoes in real time, because we’re not using molds – we’re simply programming a machine,” said McInnis. “Liquid Factory is not just a new way of making things, it’s a new speed of making things.”
The first concept shoe they are creating using this manufacturing process is Reebok Liquid Speed. The company is releasing 300 pairs of this limited edition shoe, created using company’s robotic 3D drawing technology. They are available for order at Reebok’s website and FinishLine.com for $189.50. Also, the company is planning to open a Liquid Factory manufacturing lab in early 2017.