Full disclosure: This article was NOT paid placement. I did provide a free pair of thongs (flip flops) to the author for photography and to review.
Additive Manufacturing have just released their July 2020 newletter with the whole issue focussing on Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing. Its a great read and I can thoroughly recommend it. Read the full newsletter at this link. Really pleased that they have recognised what we are trying to do to make Retraction Footwear as environmentally sustainable as possible.
You can find our article on Page 40 and copied below. As with the whole newsletter, there is a focus on aspects of Environmental Sustainability. (Text copied below if the article image is difficult to read).
Australia-based Retraction Footwear is the manufacturer of the fl ip-fl ops seen on the cover of this issue. Like other consumer-facing companies we’ve covered, Retraction has found that 3D printing is the right manufacturing method for this product, which is made on demand and customized to each buyer’s feet. But beyond an example of additive manufacturing for production, Retraction Footwear also represents a shift in thinking about the role of the manufacturer and the nature of production. Conventional footwear manufacturing is linear. Materials like foam are cut from larger pieces, leaving behind waste that must be discarded. The designs suited to the “average” person will turn out to be too large, too small, too firm or too soft for most wearers. Those standardized shoes are manufactured in large factories that consume high amounts of energy. The products are made in the standard 10 or so sizes that consumers are expected to buy, resulting in shortages in some cases and unused inventory in others. And when the shoes reach their end-of-life and the consumer no longer needs or wants them, they will more than likely wind up in a landfill. The model put forth by Retraction Footwear dismantles each of these linear steps. The company’s 3D printing process applies material only where it is needed, generating far less waste than conventional shoe manufacturing. The flip-fl op design features an air cushioning system inside the sole which farther reduces the material used, and each design is right-sized to the customer. The thongs are manufactured with just 12 desktop 3D printers, each optimized to use only 50W of energy, or about as much as it takes to operate a standard light bulb. The product itself is made to order, preventing wasted inventory and providing the consumer with shoes that will last longer because they fit better. Retraction Footwear even has a vision for the end-of-life scenario — customers can return their unwanted thongs to the company, which is working to develop a recycling solution to turn old shoes into new filament. When it does, the circular economy loop will be complete for its product. Manufacturing can continue with a decreasing draw on natural resources, enabling production and consumption to go on sustainably. This is what 3D printing can enable, what the other stories in this issue point to, and what the future of manufacturing looks like. Learn more in our special report on 3D printing and the circular economy at gbm.media/circularAM.