Chinese additive manufacturing start-up, Z-Sharp 3D Technology, has invested 20 million CNY (approximately USD $3 million) into a new 3D printing facility in the city of Wuhu. This site is enabling the production of 3D printed TPU midsoles for sports footwear.
According to Zhou Yalei, project manager at Z-Sharp, the company has manufactured and installed 15 Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printers at the facility which is expected to create 100,000 pairs of midsoles per year.
Z-Sharp 3D Technology
Founded in 2017, Z-Sharp 3D Technology is headquartered in Wuhu’s Chungu 3D Printing Intelligent Equipment Industrial Park, which is said to be the largest industrial cluster for 3D printing in eastern China.
Prior to the expansion of its facility, the company was producing 36,000 3D printed midsoles each year. The Z-Sharp midsoles feature a lattice structure using TPU for a lighter, more breathable shoe. Furthermore, the midsoles are said to have a higher resilience and absorption properties than conventional midsoles.
The company’s SLS 3D printers are reportedly capable of adjusting layer thickness continuously from 80μm to 300μm. Additionally, they have been designed to takes less than 8 seconds to prepare a powder layer and offers a dimensional accuracy of ±0.2mm when the length is less than 200mm, and ±0.1% accuracy when the length is over 200mm.
Custom 3D printed footwear
Peak, a sportswear manufacturer based in Quanzhou, China, is collaborating with Z-Sharp 3D Technology to advance the application of its 3D printed midsoles.
Moreover, Z-Sharp 3D Technology is working with the Shanghai Research Institute of Sports Science and the Shanghai Sports School to set up a data laboratory for 3D printing sports gear. Therefore, the company will partner with marathon events to collect the athletes’ data and produce customised footwear.
Elsewhere, Lubrizol, an Ohio-based chemicals and materials company, is producing Estane TRX TPU and BounCell-X 3D printed midsoles and outsoles for sports footwear. This range was displayed for the first time at Chinaplas 2018, the plastics and rubber trade fair in Shanghai.
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Featured image shows a 3D printed TPU midsole. Image via Z-Sharp 3D Technology.