Voxel8 3D prints comfort-optimized insoles for Hush Puppies’ latest shoes

Boston-based digital manufacturing firm Voxel8 has revealed that it’s set to 3D print insoles en-masse for Hush Puppies’ upcoming range of designer footwear.

By integrating Voxel8’s additive manufactured lattices into its latest shoes, Hush Puppies aims to provide them with enhanced durability and shock absorption capabilities. Switching to 3D printing could also enable the footwear manufacturer to ditch complex tooling, simplify its production workflow and ultimately accelerate its products’ time to market. 

“Our sustainable and scalable technology transforms how footwear is developed and produced, with shorter design cycle times and no-tooling manufacturing,” said Travis Busbee, CTO and Co-founder of Voxel8. “Our software-driven digital manufacturing opens the door to cost effective, customized designs in the future.”

A pair of sneakers that have previously been optimized using Voxel8's technology.
Voxel8’s technology has often found footwear applications. Image via Voxel8.

Voxel8’s 3D printing portfolio 

Since it was founded in 2014 by a team of engineers from Harvard University, Voxel8 has established itself as a developer of additive manufacturing systems, software and materials. In 2015, the firm launched its first machine with the Voxel8 Developers Kit, an electronics 3D printer capable of depositing PLA and a conductive silver ink simultaneously. 

Alongside its proprietary system, Voxel8 also released an accompanying toolpath software dubbed ‘Project Wire,’ which allows users to upload a CAD model before ‘dragging and dropping’ parts such as LEDs, chips, and resistors into designs in real-time, with the machine capable of pausing and resuming for adjustments.

The system’s flexible multi-material manufacturing capabilities has provided it with varying applications, ranging from single-piece electronics to producing customized textiles and footwear. In the case of the latter, Voxel8 agreed to 3D print high-end fashion accessories for the Italian designer brand Eddy Ricami, as recently as March 2021. 

Installing an ActiveLab machine at its Montecosaro facility has since allowed Eddy Ricami to customize its footwear and other apparel, while reducing their overall costs and lead times. Following the designer’s successful use case, it appears that Hush Puppies has now also opted to take advantage of Voxel8’s technology, as a means of optimizing the shock absorption properties of its latest shoes. 

Voxel8's ActiveLab 3D printing system
Eddy Ricami installed a Voxel ActiveLab System (pictured) at its facility in Italy during March 2021. Photo via Voxel8.

Fabricating fashionable footwear 

Through its collaboration with Voxel8, Hush Puppies has developed an innovative new footwear line that it says will deliver “comfort and style to its loyal customers.” To achieve this, the firms have worked to fine tune the properties of Voxel8’s lattice inserts, and produce insoles that provide wearers with “elevated comfort” and “sustained optimism.”

During early production, the companies have found no change in the insoles’ cushioning qualities after 100,000 cycles, and four times less thickness change than seen in traditional foams. What’s more, given that Voxel8’s technology negates the need for tooling entirely, it’s inherently more scalable than conventional processes, and potentially allows Hush Puppies to shorten its design cycle times in future. 

Moving forwards, Voxel8 intends to ramp-up production at its Somerville MA facility and expand its capacity in Asia to enter high-volume manufacturing there, with Hush Puppies’ 3D printing-optimized footwear set to hit the market in 2022. 

“Hush Puppies is excited to build on our history of comfort innovation with the Voxel8 partnership,” added Kate Pinkham, VP and GM of Hush Puppies. “The brand invented casual 60+ years ago, and we are committed to bringing a fresh, innovative approach to the brand as we look to ‘reinvent casual’ for the next 60 years.” 

3D printing designer shoes 

Footwear production has become one of 3D printing’s most popular applications over the last 5-10 years, and the technology has increasingly captured the imagination of some of the world’s biggest brands. Adidas, for instance, has consistently worked with Carbon to develop novel 3D printed trainer designs, and recently released its updated 4DFWD running shoes, which are set to feature at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

In the past, Adidas has also partnered with designers like Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto to develop new shoe iterations using ‘Futurecraft 4D’ technology. Working with the former, Adidas has been able to create a sock-like sneaker that’s designed specifically for female use called the ‘AlphaEdge 4D silhouette.’

At around the same time, fellow sportswear brand New Balance chose to revamp some of its classic footwear lines via a collaboration with 3D printer manufacturer Formlabs. Using the company’s TripleCell platform, New Balance has optimized both the weight and cushioning properties of its 990 Sport and FuelCell Echo shoes. 

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Featured image shows a pair of sneakers that Voxel8 has previously optimized using its 3D printing technology. Image via Voxel8.