WUHU, China—China's Z-Sharp 3D Technology has started the first phase of a 3D printing facility, and is using thermoplastic polyurethane to produce flexible midsoles.
Z-Sharp installed 15 self-developed selective laser sintering machines in Phase 1 of the project, which started in May. Production is set at 36,000 pairs per year, according to project manager Zhou Yalei.
In total, the company invested $2.9 million in this phase.
The company sources a large part of the TPU materials from overseas, Zhou said.
Z-Sharp expects the project's total capacity to reach 100,000 pairs per year when later phases are on stream.
Lattice midsoles printed with TPU are lighter, more breathable and have higher resilience and better damping than conventional midsoles, the company claimed.
Z-Sharp printers can adjust layer thickness continuously from 80μm to 300μm. It takes less than eight seconds to prepare a powder layer.
The layer has a dimensional accuracy of ±0.2mm when the length is less than 200mm, and ±0.1 percent accuracy when the length is over 200mm.
Z-Sharp was founded two years ago in Wuhu city's Chungu 3D Printing Intelligent Equipment Industrial Park.
This is the largest industrial cluster for 3D printing in eastern China.
Peak, a Chinese sportswear maker, is helping to devise applications.
Additionally, it is working with the Shanghai Research Institute of Sports Science and the Shanghai Sports School to set up a data laboratory for sports gear 3D printing.
The company also plans to work with marathon events to collect the athletes' data and produce customized footwear.