Materialise, a leading provider of additive manufacturing software and sophisticated 3D printing solutions, has partnered with winter sports gear and tailored footwear specialist Tailored Fits, to create the world’s first end-to-end digital supply chain for custom-fit ski boots.
The solution co-created by the two companies already enables customers to have their feet scanned by Tailored Fits’ speciality sporting goods retailers in ten minutes, and – using the digital supply chain process developed – receive individually tailored 3D printed insoles for various sports in under ten days. The pilot phase has been so successful that a number of pro-athletes have already endorsed the insoles and supply process, welcoming the innovation to the sports retail market. This same setup will soon provide skiers with the option to fully customize either their ski boot liner or the entire ski boot for optimum comfort and performance.
Testing for the liner/full boot option is currently being carried out with professional skiers including a national ski team. Tailored Fits ski boots are scheduled to be available from leading sporting goods retailers from December 2017.
“The way an individual’s foot sits in a ski-boot – the forces it exerts and the support it receives – makes a huge difference to comfort and performance, yet the issue is one our industry has failed to address,” said Reto Rindlisbacher, CEO of TAILORED FITS AG.
“We saw that 3D printing had massive potential in this respect, but this isn’t our area of expertise. Ski boots and sports gear, is. We know the market, we know skiers, we know the biomechanics involved in sports motion; we have access to one of the world’s best sports gear development labs in Italy. From our partnership with Materialise, we received access to the additive manufacturing expertise to develop the best 3D printed solution, and the answer to making mass customized production a reality.”
The two companies embarked on a year-long co-creation process, looking at specific parts that could benefit from 3D Printing and at how the design to delivery process could be automated.
“We quickly saw that customized insoles would be critical. Focusing on this area first, we began looking at materials and developing structures that would provide rigid support for key zones of the foot and flexible protection in others in order to maximize both comfort and performance,” said Dr Alireza Parandian, Corporate Innovations and Global Strategist for Wearables at Materialise.
“But identifying the right material and the right interior structures was just part of the puzzle,” continued Parandian. “The process of analysing anatomically detailed 3D scans, converting that individual body data into print-ready instruction and automating the ordering, production and delivery process – in other words creating a unique digital supply chain – meant working incredibly closely with the Tailored Fits team to develop the ‘tailored fit’ for them. Working with these guys has been a real honour and a co-creation project in the truest sense of the term.”
Materialise will manage and continue to enhance the automation process, and provide 100% of the production capacity required to support the supply chain.
Reflecting on the project so far, Rindlisbacher concluded; “I think the reason this project has been so successful is that each company has brought out the best in the other. Working with experts who could devise the ideal 3D-printed solution, software set-up and then offer us a production line to support demand has meant we’ve been able to remain focused on what we do best – looking at what sports enthusiasts need from their gear and finding innovative ways to meet those needs.”