Danish shoe brand ECCO has in recent years been drawn to the innovation of 3D printing for its shoe design and production. The company, which debuted 3D printed custom silicone midsoles in spring 2019, partnered with Origin the same year to utilize the Origin One platform at its R&D facility. Since Origin was acquired by Stratasys in 2021, it seems only natural that the cooperation with the shoe manufacturer would continue and evolve.
Indeed, ECCO is using Stratasys’ Origin One 3D printing technology for product development and manufacturing. The technology enables it to come up with innovative new footwear designs, prototype them and also manufacture limited runs of shoes. This is achieved thanks to the rapid production of 3D printed molds and lasts made from custom resin materials from Henkel’s Loctite portfolio.
ECCO uses Origin One systems, based on the proprietary P3 technology, at its development facilities in Portugal and Denmark. The technology works well with ECCO’s Direct Injection Process (DIP) which provides an efficient technique for securing the upper part of the shoe to the midsole. The 3D printed molds and lasts are comparable in quality to CNC machined aluminum molds and lasts, but are cheaper and faster to make, enabling ECCO to significantly speed up product development and lead times.
“Our innovative approach to footwear development and desire to put customer experience as a priority made additive manufacturing a logical next step in the evolution of our development process,” says Vice President of Research and Development at ECCO, Jakob Møller Hansen. “In our search to find the right partner, we tested a variety of 3D printers for surface quality, print speed, and accuracy. Among the printers we tested, the Stratasys Origin One was the 3D printer that best met our stringent requirements.”
The material used for the molds and lasts was specially formulated through a cooperation between Stratasys and Henkel. The Loctite resin is highly durable and produces shoe molds that can undergo thousands of shots with no visible degradation. This means the 3D printed molds are not only suitable for prototyping but also manufacturing branded shoes for pre-sale opportunities and customer feedback. ECCO can also use the technology to produce mold inserts on location, eliminating the need to ship metal molds.
“ECCO’s case is a great example of how the footwear industry is embracing additive manufacturing for functional shoe parts, which goes beyond typical applications like sport shoe cushioning,” adds Chris Prucha, CTO of Production P3 for Stratasys and a co-founder of Origin. “We were able to collaborate with ECCO to provide a solution that allowed them to further innovate their processes and produce a quicker development workflow.”
Notably, ECCO is interested in bringing its unique production method to more players in the footwear industry. The company has several routes to market for the integration of 3D printed DIP tooling, “with the ability to assist with every aspect of footwear manufacturing and mold making including engineering, part production, or licensing of IP.”