If the Shoe Fits
The use of 3D printing is where the recyclable rubber meets the road.
In 2020, Huntsman worked with OESH® Shoes (OESH), the US footwear brand that makes women’s shoes that are “healthy by design,” to create a 100% recyclable shoe sole via 3D printing.
Huntsman’s thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) materials offered the specific comfort and performance properties OESH was looking for to create a fully recyclable shoe using its unique 3D printing technique, which creates parts from pellets. The soles were then recycled into pellets and put back into the 3D manufacturing process. The next step was to test the new recycled sole against those made from virgin materials. Results showed that the recycled sole had the same functionality as the original sole—with no drop in performance properties.
For OESH, which is known for its design of healthy shoes, using Huntsman’s TPU elastomers created signature soles that are now not only 100% healthy, but 100% recyclable. Huntsman is working with the footwear industry to advance 3D printing in shoe production, which reduces waste from start to finish. Shoes can be designed using less material by applying the product exactly where it is needed. Process scraps are completely eliminated, as there is no extra waste material typically produced in the traditional molding process. And producing shoes close to the source of supply and on demand reduces transportation requirements and the need to keep large inventories