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How far away are we from 3D printed ski boots?

With technology expanding at an exponential rate, it seems that it is only an inevitability that manufacturing will be greatly disrupted. One thing that interests me in this field is the potential to get a completely custom ski boot printed out for you at home.

Ski boots have been relatively unchanged in shapes for a long while. This is due to the fact that producing a plastic injection mold for ski boot shells and cuffs is expensive. The brands want to make the money back on their investment and usually run a single mold for years whilst changing some features on the boot, rather than creating a new shape.

This is where additive manufacturing might be able to dramatically change the landscape of how ski boots are both produced and designed. Already 3d printing is used in the manufacture of prototypes before moving into the higher cost mold tooling. It seems the only thing holding printed boots back from existing right now is being able to print with high performance plastics. As soon as this becomes available, I think it will allow a whole wave of new design possibilities. Also the ability to build a boot around a foot scan.

I am not the only one who is thinking this way about the future of ski boots. At the recent ISPO in Germany a 3d printed prototype ski boot was displayed made from a laser sintering process using a material called Windform SP. Designed by Austrian Franz Egger, the boot seems to be also working with some original stance geometry. The boot certainly looks the part but it is hard to say if the material will perform on snow with a good flex or withstand the elements. 

Check out the boot here:----

It is a great step forward however and I am excited to see how it progresses. It really is only the beginning and I plan to not only follow this subject in depth, but also be involved. As 3d printers become cheaper, they will surely be a household item to produce your own parts for nearly everything you need. Currently nearly every city will have a 3d printer somewhere for which you can send your files in to  be produced for a fairly low cost.

Within 5-10 years I think we can expect to be printing at home and viewing this in a whole different light. Will the current boot makers lead the charge? Or will designers and bootfitters be faster to adopt this?  We can only wait and see.

Here is a peek at some of the 3d printing I have been doing to develop a new type of ski boot.  :)

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