3D printing has done it again. It has become more and more popular in the sports and footwear world and again the method is being used. Now in the development of these climbing shoes, called Athos. Also called “cat’s feet”, this type of shoe is essential for athletes who climb, because they allow better support in the grips, avoiding slipping. It is undoubtedly an interesting project that combines three very important areas: technology, footwear and sport. But how was additive manufacturing used and how does Athos differ from other conventional climbing shoes?
Although they are a necessary piece of equipment, climbing shoes can often be quite uncomfortable and even injure athletes. Indeed, professional climbers often wear shoes 2 or 3 sizes smaller to have better grip, causing suffering. To solve this problem, a group of Spanish students from the Elisava School of Design developed Athos. The idea was born from the search for an innovative application using additive manufacturing. That is why, after learning about the discomfort of this type of shoe, the students set to work. The project consisted in creating tailor-made climbing shoes adapted to the feet of each climber, in order to obtain better adaptability, performance and comfort during the practice of the sport.
Athos and the 3D printing of sports shoes
As mentioned, the idea was to implement additive manufacturing in an innovative application, and this technology was the key to the development of Athos shoes. In this project, the main advantage of 3D printing was personalization, as it allows each shoe to be adapted to the shape of each climber’s foot. This is done according to the needs as well as the type of performance of each user. Indeed, the workflow they carried out was as follows: scanning the feet, customizing the prototype, manufacturing the shoe (3D printing, post-processing, assembly), and finally, delivery to the user. It should be noted that the 3D printed part is the body of the shoe, then it remains to attach the elastics and straps separately. But, if you look at it, this is a very simple production process that could be available to anyone.
The material chosen by the young students was obviously TPU. This thermoplastic is characterized by its great flexibility and elasticity, which makes it ideal in this field. It should be mentioned that unlike the standardized shoes normally used in rock climbing, the Athos are tailor-made to achieve the perfect climbing shoe for every athlete. Additionally, 3D printing enables much more responsible and sustainable manufacturing by producing on demand and reducing both processes and materials by 50%.
The project was so well received that it was nominated for several awards, including the Forward AM Innovation Awards, the Elisava Master’s Project Awards and the Distributed Design Awards. Among them, the Forward AM Innovation Awards, the Elisava Master’s Project Awards or the Distributed Design Awards. It remains to be seen with what innovations related to 3D printing this design school will surprise us! In the meantime, you can find more information about the project HERE.
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* All image credits: Athos