Crocs and 3ntr — The Shoe Fits

Maybe you’ve seen the image of a green Crocs sandal printed on a 3ntr industrial 3D printer.  There’s a lot more to the story — like Crocs creates 250 prototypes per season with 3ntr machines. Matteo Maggioni shares the details in Italian at replicatore.it and English at 3D Printing Media Network 

Below is a Google translation of the article by Matteo Maggioni edited by Plural Additive Manufacturing:

Crocs is a company that has known, in its own way, how to innovate the field of footwear. It introduced a new concept in the market that quickly won the approval of consumers. In order to continue to guarantee the high quality standards that have always distinguished it, Crocs introduced into its manufacturing process the use of additive manufacturing technologies: more precisely, we are talking about 3ntr systems.

Through the use of 3ntr industrial  3D printers , Crocs improved the entire prototyping phase of its footwear, obtaining highly accurate feedback regarding the wearability of the products, significantly reducing time and costs of production – a fundamental aspect for a company when it comes to to compress the time-to-market. The additive manufacturing within the American colossus applied to the prototyping part: all new shoes, about 250 new models per season, are produced on the basis of “test” models made with 3ntr printers.

In fact, during the design phase of a new shoe, 3D printing technologies give their best results. Above all the versatility of the solutions used and the path taken forward together by Crocs and 3ntr, with a strong study on materials and a continuous collaboration over the last year and a half on perfecting the printing phase – so as to be able to replicate exactly the characteristics of wearability, resistance and ergonomics of the products put on the market.

3ntr has done a great job in optimizing its machines, especially in terms of printing times,” explained Luca Faggin, Crocs’ Europe Innovation Manager. ” We have been down for 2-3 days to make a product about a day and a half. Not to mention that with 3ntr industrial 3D printers, I would like to use a soft material very similar to the one we use for the finished products, which allows us to have very reliable feedback. Thanks to the use of these systems within our production cycle, we managed to achieve 100% satisfactory final results.”

The history of Crocs in the world of 3D printing was born, however, even 10 years ago, with the first 3D printers, gypsum machines with a binder dust bed technology. From then on the company continued to test different solutions, without ever being satisfied and continuing to innovate its manufacturing process. In short, a trademark that is not limited to the now famous shoes but that is a business model.

“The 3D printing in Crocs came about 10 years ago with the first powder machines, used for the realization of aesthetic prototypes. When we needed to create new designs and carry out ergonomic tests, we started to explore new alternatives,” continued Faggin. “Initially we contacted some 3D printer brands and some solutions allowed us to meet many of our needs, but at the time we still could not get prototypes at affordable prices or fast production. Not to mention that we needed high reliability, especially from the point of view of repeatability. At this point we did a test with the 3ntr machines and, after a development of the materials, we were able to find the best solution.”

Crocs is a perfect example that demonstrates how many benefits can bring the right 3D printing technology within a business process, concretely allowing to improve its business model and, one day to use additive systems for real production. When that day arrives, Crocs and 3ntr have already taken a big step forward.