After extensive research on 3D printed footwear and 3D printed footwear tooling on Stratasys Origin systems, ECCO is now ready to offer 3D printed tooling for product development and commercial samples to the wider footwear market.
Following upper materials and labor, molds are usually the next highest cost element of development and sampling in footwear. The cost is both time and money and its is amplified when making shoes with the DIP process. Leveraging a long history of innovation, a vertically integrated business with wholesale, retail and e-commerce timelines to manage, ECCO set out to use 3D printing technology to speed up the development and reduce the time and cost of bringing new products to market.
Over the last 3 years, ECCO has worked with key machine (Stratasys/Origin) and material (Henkel-Loctite) manufacturers to develop and hone the process of designing and building reliable 3D printed tooling for development and commercial samples. During this time the company produced in excess of 250 mold toolsets for use in development facilities and pushed the number of injection cycles beyond 1000 for a single mold set. After 1000 injections, the design team could not detect any mold wear or degradation in the finished shoes.
ECCO is now confident enough to reach out to the wider footwear market and offer brands and manufacturers the opportunity to use the ECCO IP-protected system of 3D printed inserts and aluminum frames for use in their own development and sampling processes.
The company intends to offer 4 packages/options:
- Full-Service Solution (option 1) – ECCO completes all CAD work, 3D printing and mold testing* on behalf of the customer and hands over validated molds.
- ECCO Engineer, Customer Print (option 2) – ECCO completes all CAD work and sets up the 3D print files for the customer to print on their own machine** with remote support from ECCO.
- Customer Design, ECCO Print (option 3) – Customer completes sole CAD files, ECCO engineer and 3D print the mold inserts and mill the aluminum frame if required.
- Licenced Solution (option 4) – Customer licenses technology** from ECCO and completes all CAD work, 3D printing and mold validation in their own facility with remote support from ECCO.
Key benefits of using 3D printed tooling compared to traditional aluminum include lower cost, faster turnaround, accessible price for siting local to molding factory reducing time, cost and risk associated with shipping molds. In addition, the printed inserts are a fraction of the size and weight of a full aluminum tool, require less energy to produce than the aluminum equivalent and are easier to handle and store.
* testing is to validate mold functionality, not physical testing of the finished sole.
** only ECCO-approved materials and 3D print machines can be used to ensure the quality of final parts.