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Sympatex Thermally-Molded Shoe Liners Could Refashion Outdoor Footwear

Sympatex Technologies has developed a new innovation for footwear that could revolutionize the molding methods in manufacturing.

The functional materials provider is set to unveil Utmospheric, a new manufacturing technology that uses a thermal molding process to develop a liner that adapts to any foot shape, leaving no seams or creases behind, according to Sympatex. What’s more, the functionality of the laminate isn’t compromised either.

The new manufacturing process will allow for full, three-dimensional laminates that can be directly incorporated into existing footwear production procedures. Previously, weatherproofing laminates could only be integrated via a two-dimensional cutout. Workers were then required to form the cutout into desired shapes in a time-consuming process.

Sympatex believes its innovation, which utilizes thermal molding to produce a complete layer of laminate without the need for extra handling, will allow the company to take the lead in outdoor footwear materials.

“It can reasonably be expected that this innovation will open up a completely new chapter in the development of outdoor shoes, as it offers significant improvements both for the manufacturer, on the process side, and for the customer, in terms of added comfort,” Dr. Rüdiger Fox, Sympatex Technologies CEO said. “We were guided by lean principles in our innovation process, and simply refused to accept that you first have to perforate and cut up waterproof materials, only to then seal them again by means of complex handicraft.”

2-D weatherproof textiles often required industrial tape or extra material to complete production, which Sympatex suggests “inevitably damage the membrane, which means that water impermeability properties then have to be re-created in the final steps by means of tape.”

With Utmospheric technology, on the other hand, liners are crafted as one, custom-built whole. With thermal molding, there are no creases or seams and workers can simply insert the already-formed layer into the structure of an existing shoe design.

The result is weatherproofing that should align better with outdoor footwear designs and be even more efficient at keeping the weather and water at bay. Sympatex has been testing Utmospheric prototypes for several weeks and the company says a launch can be expected next year. However, “due to overwhelming feedback,” production machine development has already commenced.

Sympatex will present its new tech in Milan, Sept. 25-27, at the Lineapelle trade show, and has plans to go into full series production by the end of 2019.