With German manufacturing know-how and a stringent sourcing and research approach, Sympatex Technology, a pioneer in the field of sustainable functional textiles, has made a massive investment in the future of inner booty production and enhanced it for the long-term. Last year the Munich-based functional textile specialist presented the initial prototypes of UTMOSPHERIC®, a seamless, no-stitch three-dimensional waterproof inner shoe. The multi-customer prototype phase is now close to completion. In early 2020, the first series production machines for the fully automated thermal forming process will go on-line. At this year’s Lineapelle in Milan from October 2-4, Sympatex (exhibit hall 22P M11-M19 / N12-N20) will be offering the remaining pilot production slots for interested partners who want to offer this technology in retail stores in the 2020/2021 winter season.
About UTMOSPHERIC®: Sympatex relied on automotive manufacturing experience to develop a highly automated production technology that allows the company to permanently give its laminate a three-dimensional form. UTMOSPHERIC® is created through a thermal forming process to produce a seamless and crease-free inner booty that perfectly adapts to the foot, all without affecting the quality or functionality of the laminate. UTMOSPHERIC® is manufactured on fully automated production line and then integrated directly into the existing upper production process. In combination with optimized textile materials, the sustainable polyester-based, high-performance Sympatex membrane offers the ideal base material.
Technology development background: Although the injection molding of shoe soles is meanwhile a highly-industrialized process, production of the shoe upper still involves painstaking manual labor, especially if the shoe needs to be reliably waterproof and breathable at the same time to ensure a pleasant foot climate regardless of the weather conditions. To date, the functional laminate that is required has only been available in two-dimensional form, which means extensive manual labor is needed to “design” a three-dimensional foot form that is then integrated into the upper as an inner booty. The unavoidable cutting and stitching inevitably harms the membrane however, so that the waterproofness ultimately has to be reconstructed with the help of tape, a time-consuming step. While this has been a common approach in the shoe industry, these days are finally over.
The UTMOSPHERIC® approach offers multiple advantages. Elimination of the manual production process reduces both the production time and manual labor. In addition, material savings are incurred by fully eliminating the need for tape, which more than offsets the additional costs for the machines. At the same time, the high degree of automation guarantees reliable waterproofness, thus leading to a product with a consistently higher level of quality that no longer requires time-consuming inspection. End customers will also feel the difference. By eliminating the stitching, wearing comfort is noticeably increased. And through the process, the breathability of the laminate is twice as high as comparable materials that have been used to date. Finally, the inherent stretch properties of the Sympatex membrane and the laminate ensure a natural, anatomic fit – regardless of the weather or activity.
“The production capacity of our initial pilot system is limited to between 350,000 and 500,000 pairs of shoes a year. To handle the volumes in the key manufacturer countries that our pilot partners announced during the preliminary discussions, we are already working to procure additional machines,” explains Dr. Rüdiger Fox, CEO Sympatex Technologies. “To develop this technology, we deliberately used know-how from automobile manufacturing, one of the world’s most heavily-automated industries. We can rightly expect that this innovation will open up a completely new chapter in functional shoe development,” adds Fox.