Chinese 3D printer manufacturer LuxCreo is launching its own venture into 3D printed shoes via a Kickstarter crow-funding campaign. The new Bisca360 models are marketed as the first breathable and fully waterproof shoes with a 3D printed midsole. LuxCreo’s high-speed photopolymerization technology LEAP (Light Enabled Additive Production) is used to mass-produce the midsoles.
LuxCreo, or 清锋时代 in Chinese, developed technology and materials very similar to those proposed by Carbon. These high-speed, layerless photopolymerization approaches are now available from a number of firms, including EnvisionTEC (which was was the first company to patent a continuous DLP process), and while they do have several uses in the automotive and dental segments, they are particularly suited for the footwear segment due to both the ability to produce millions of parts and to use durable polyurethane-based materials.
Betting on Bisca360
While Carbon formed a partnership with adidas and is now mass producing the midsoles for the Futurecraft 4D series, effectively dominating this segment, LuxCreo is emerging as a possible alternative. The Chinese firm venturing into the footwear segment directly, possibly to attract interest from Asian footwear mass-manufacturers, which represent nearly 90% of all footwear manufacturing today. LuxCreo’s stated mission is to “help China close the 3D printing gap”.
While the midsoles are 3D printed, the upper section is manufactured using advanced nano-fabrics with tiny porous holes that enable air to flow through but keep water out.
The early bird price starts at $99 for a single pair, which is a 50% discount on the final commercial price. This means that shoes with 3D printed midsoles are now becoming very price competitive, with base Futurecraft 4D models also starting around $200.
In this particular case, the shoes were created as a means to show what could be achieved with LuxCreo’s technology, realizing the large-scale application of 3D printing, and creating a new manufacturing model and ecology that combines customization and mass production. This means that the current price scheme applies to low productivity levels while scaling up production could bring to further price reduction due to scale economics applying mainly to material costs and hardware depreciation.
The company currently has four locations in Beijing, Ningbo, Taipei, and Silicon Valley in the United States. It has gathered high-end technical talents and executive talents from world-class universities such as Tsinghua University, Cambridge University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business, and Imperial College.
Investment companies KPCB, Northern Light Venture Capital, and Shunwei Capital enabled LuxCreo to scale rapidly in terms of software, equipment, material research and development, and mass production commercial applications.