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Digital Manufacturing

The intensive digitisation of industrial processes related to the field of design and conceptualisation of models gives a boost to the digital manufacturing of products such as footwear

The manufacturing processes in the footwear sector are constantly evolving, with the aim of optimising time and costs, as well as obtaining a better performance of the materials used.
Digital manufacturing applied to the footwear sector aims to help achieve these objectives. Nowadays it is possible to get digital information of the elements involved in footwear by means of devices like 3D scanners and CAD systems. Thanks to this digital information, new technologies and procedures have emerged, for instance, automatic cutting systems, numerical control manufacturing, additive manufacturing, etc., which comprise digital manufacturing of footwear.
Many elements and components are involved in the footwear industry; each one has its own complexity in terms of design, manufacture, and materials with which they can be manufactured.



The proper use of the material in the cutting process is essential in the footwear industry, since its consumption is very high. That is why INESCOP is conducting research on automatic nesting algorithms that help improve the yield of the materials used, with the purpose of using smaller amounts of material, and thus resulting in a two-fold economic and environmental benefit. The aim is to obtain a balance between the quality of nesting and the time required to achieve it.

In addition, with these techniques an estimate of the material consumption of a given model before being manufactured can be obtained, which helps calculating the cost of a model, and hence its feasibility without the need to produce physical prototypes.


Another R&D line consists in adapting designs to the new demands and requirements that have arisen in the sector, due to the emergence of new manufacturing, cutting and printing technologies. It should be noted that the digital design of each shoe element can be manufactured by different types of machines and with different types of tools, and that is the reason why we are dealing with the possibility of including, within a single design, the manufacturing characteristics of different machines, so that designers do not rely that much on the features of every single manufacturing procedure.


Generation of a mould from the design of an element such as an outsole or insole is a complex and time-consuming process, and also every size of the elements requires a different mould. INESCOP studies the automatic generation of moulds from digital elements that either have been designed with a CAD system or have been directly digitised.


Footwear insoles may include different materials. Since CNC manufacturing cannot include this characteristic, some mechanisms and tools are being investigated to simulate in the design those areas requiring softer materials, by hollowing out some areas in the bottom part of the insole or generating inner structures that can regulate the shock absorption capacity of certain areas. This will therefore provide a cushioning effect and greater comfort, which will prevent orthopaedic inserts from being too hard in the areas where they are placed.



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