Brands without data-driven services and products might feel pressure to step up their games, as others jump in with both feet.
Sneaker brand New Balance and technology giant HP, along with insole maker Superfeet, announced a new collaboration on Thursday to personalize insoles on an individual basis, thanks to biometric data captured through HP foot-scanning tech FitStation.
“Together with partners like Superfeet we are helping the world’s leading footwear companies take full advantage of digital manufacturing, create innovative designs, improve workflows and deliver individualized products,” said Philipp Jung, general manager and global head of vertical industries and end-to-end applications for HP’s 3-D printing and digital manufacturing team.
The data from the 3-D scanning process — which can drill down into specifics, like dynamic gait analysis — optimizes design and production, according to HP.
The system designs footwear and related products based on the biometric information, and then the company’s Multi Jet Fusion 3-D printing tech steps in to manufacture on-demand and precise specifications. The machine prints the insole using new materials like BASF’s Ultrasint thermoplastic polyurethane, a substance announced in September that was touted for elasticity, shock absorption and wear resistance.
Jung sees this approach as the way forward for manufacturing: “Improving efficiency, enabling sustainable impact and expanding production applications is critical to transforming industries,” he added.
The news is a culmination of sorts for HP’s push into the footwear personalization game. The company launched Fitstation in 2017 and quickly partnered with Superfeet, Brooks Running Company and Steitz Secura. Last year, HP also signed with Volumental, a 3-D scanning and footwear recommendation software firm, to create a retail-worthy system that blends footwear recommendations and personalization.
Now the Fitstation x Volumental solution has arrived at select New Balance stores in the U.S. and Canada. Customers can stop by to check out the technology and get scanned for the New Balance Stride 3-D insoles. Elsewhere, HP plans to feature its Multi Jet Fusion tech, along with other footwear initiatives, at sports business trade show ISPO Munich next week.
While HP owns the scanning and printing technology now, where it will ultimately land is uncertain. According to reports on Thursday, the company is the subject of a hostile takeover bid by Xerox. The latter legacy printing giant also has 3-D manufacturing goals of its own. But those tend to skew more industrial than footwear-related.