EVERBERG, Belgium—Simplicity Works Europe S.L. worked with Huntsman Corp. and Desma Elastomertechnick GmbH to develop a new way to approach shoe production.
Simplicity's process created a highly automated, cost-effective way of bonding together two-dimensional components in a single shot to form a seamless, three-dimensional upper, according to a Huntsman news release. The method could offer more opportunities to manufacturers looking to produce products closer to customers in Europe and North America.
Simplicity's patent-protected 3D Bonding Technology requires no stitching and no lasting, connecting the different pieces of a shoe simultaneously. The technology can be customized to suit requirements.
The process uses an injectable material from Huntsman and a Desma injection-molding machine. Individual upper components are placed into the mold in slots separated by narrow channels, and a counter mold is injected in a single shot with the Huntsman polyurethane. The product is a shoe upper held together by a polyurethane foam structure skeleton with a durable skin. The polyurethane line (or ribways) are available with different colors and textures.
The Huntsman material is an injectable polyurethane with excellent adhesion properties and extreme product flowability, said Johan van Dyck, global OEM business development manager at Huntsman. The material also had to deliver comfort and cushioning as well as finishing aesthetics.
The method is compatible with different synthetic and natural materials, and can make shoe production outside low labor cost countries more cost competitive. It is less labor intensive with no seams to stitch or overlapping areas, making less overhead and waste. The shoes have no knitting or stitching lines, with less friction and fewer pressure points, and are more waterproof without needle holes or permeable seam lines.
It can be used as the main joining technique or combined with traditional stitching methods for functional or decorative purposes. Simplicity holds the patent rights for its technology and engineers designs for customers using CAD software. Once a product has been designed, Simplicity develops all the tooling and molds needed for footwear production. This knowledge is then transferred to manufacturers with machinery and polyurethane specifications determined alongside Huntsman and Desma. A proportion of the saving is collected as royalties by Simplicity.
Simplicity, Huntsman and Desma pooled knowledge and expertise over six years to create the new 3D bonding process, said Adrian Hernandez, CEO of Simplicity and inventor of the new technology.
For more information, go to www.3dbonding.com.
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