Seattle-based startup Prevolve has launched its first 3D printed shoe product. The BioRunners are focused on performance with a custom design based on the user’s foot profile and fabricated using a 3D printer.
Founder of the company, Oliver Brossmann, explains to GeekWire his incentive was based upon solving a personal knee problem. The footwear industry is becoming increasingly more familiar with 3D printing technology, yet few companies are attempting to utilize the performance potential of the custom fabrication method of 3D scanning and printing.
Finding its feet
Founder Oliver Brossmann has been plagued by knee injuries, as a youngster he had high hopes of becoming a professional soccer player but was prevented by persistent knee problems.
Suffering from tendonitis, Brossmann needed surgery on both knees while in high school and has always had problems with knee pain. To combat this, Oliver Brossmann began running bare foot and found a noticeable improvement, “I really felt a difference on my knees. I felt like I could run without pain, where before any running was difficult.”
At the same time, Brossmann explains he “stumbled upon an article in The Economist on 3D printing and how it’s the future of manufacturing.” Brossmann was a Business student at this time and had the brainwave for 3D printing lightweight custom shoes as a solution to both his knee problems and as a viable business idea.
3D printed footwear market
Brossmann believes he found a gap in the market since, while the footwear industry is warming to the idea of 3D printed shoes, few are exploring the ability for custom products. U.S footwear manufacturer Nike has implemented 3D printing to develop one-off shoes for professional athletes, however haven’t as yet employed the technology for a more broader audience. Oliver Brossmann explains the reluctance for these big brands,
They produce the shoes very cheaply and they’re distributing them to retailers across the U.S. and the world. It’s cheap for them to make shoes when it’s the same shoe 30,000 times. They can spend their money on their marketing.
Despite this, Adidas has indeed approached 3D printing technology for mass production with its recent collaboration with California 3D printers Carbon. However, the German brand isn’t currently harnessing the performance potential for custom-fitted products, instead Adidas’ exploration has had large emphasis on speed.
Gif shows the BioRunners’ 3D printing process. Images via Prevolve.
“The ultimate customization”
The recently launched BioRunners are 3D printed in thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) which is a flexible material with good durability properties in order to withstand the associated impacts of running.
Each shoe takes about 20 to 30 hours to print once 3D scanning the customer’s foot and the pair are priced at $195. Not only is the fit of the shoe custom to the user but Prevolve offers three different treads for use on road, trail or as a hybrid between the two. The startup is also currently working on prototypes for soccer cleats to bring its technology onto the pitch. Oliver Brossmann says,
I wanted Nike to be doing it — I want those shoes. And that’s how I got here — they aren’t doing it. For me, that’s what I wanted Prevolve to be all about, the ultimate customization.
Featured image shows the BioRunners with road tread. Photo via Prevolve.