Knitted in 12 minutes

Fast sports shoes! Designed on computer in five and a half minutes, knitted in twelve minutes. How this works is demonstrated by machine-manufacturer Stoll (Reutlingen) and the German Institutes of Textile and Fibre Research Denkendorf (DITF) in the Digital Textile Micro Factory at Techtextil and Texprocess.

One of the 3D knitting machines

One of the 3D knitting machines

First a real shoe, with all its parameters, is converted into a CAD model. For the knitting process this is realised in 2D, using a program developed by the DITF. Colours and structures, such as corrugations or mesh look, come via the technology from Stoll. Meanwhile the machine is waiting for the starting signal, in stand-by mode. Then, in not even a quarter of an hour, it knits the upper of a shoe, which only needs to be supplied with a sole. “We are quite sure, by using such a short working process, that we shall be able to bring the production of sports shoes back to Europe again”, says Alexander Behm, product manager at Stoll. “That would save transporting the products from the Far East, reduce costs and protect the environment”.

But the 2D process is not yet the last word on the fit. “We are actually pushing for 3D knitting”, says Behm. The technique is still some way in the future, but a major sports-product manufacturer will shortly be coming on the market with it. “In this way it will be possible to apply many more features – create compression, for instance, incorporate active-breathing zones, and manufacture a shoe upper which is of an individualised shape”.

Kirsten Rein

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