The sports industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by consumer demand, competitive pressures, performance enhancement, injury prevention, and tactical insights and the growing importance of technologies such as sensor technology, machine learning & artificial intelligence (AI), energy harvesting, material science, augmented reality, 3D printing and biomechanics analysis. In the last three years alone, there have been over 76,000 patents filed and granted in the sports industry, according to GlobalData’s report on 3D printing in sports: footwear 3D printing. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 49,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the sports industry, there are 10+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Footwear 3D printing is a key innovation area in 3D printing

Footwear 3D printing is an advanced manufacturing process that utilizes additive manufacturing technology to create customized and highly precise shoe components or entire footwear products. The process involves depositing material layer by layer to build up three-dimensional shoe structures, which can include midsoles, outsoles, insoles, uppers, and other shoe components. Footwear 3D printing allows for the production of personalized and tailored shoes with intricate designs, optimized comfort, and enhanced performance characteristics. It offers benefits such as rapid prototyping, reduced material waste, and the ability to experiment with innovative materials and geometries, making it a disruptive technology in the footwear industry.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 80+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of footwear 3D printing.

Key players in footwear 3D printing – a disruptive innovation in the sports industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to footwear 3D printing

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Pou Chen 7 Unlock Company Profile
Coats Group 9 Unlock Company Profile
New Balance 34 Unlock Company Profile
Alpha MOS 11 Unlock Company Profile
Authentic Brands Group 30 Unlock Company Profile
Faurecia 8 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 601 Unlock Company Profile
Wolverine World Wide 14 Unlock Company Profile
ASICS 23 Unlock Company Profile
VF 9 Unlock Company Profile
JSR 12 Unlock Company Profile
Materialise 12 Unlock Company Profile
PPG Industries 8 Unlock Company Profile
Mizuno 10 Unlock Company Profile
HP 8 Unlock Company Profile
adidas 109 Unlock Company Profile
Lululemon Athletica 9 Unlock Company Profile
Under Armour 54 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 7 Unlock Company Profile
Vibram 7 Unlock Company Profile
Hewlett Packard Enterprise 8 Unlock Company Profile
Kornit Digital 25 Unlock Company Profile
Wiivv Wearables 22 Unlock Company Profile
ECCO 34 Unlock Company Profile
Kyoraku 14 Unlock Company Profile
OneFID 13 Unlock Company Profile
Orisol Asia 9 Unlock Company Profile
RS Print 11 Unlock Company Profile
C & J Clark 9 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Footwear 3D printing is transforming the sports industry by offering athletes unprecedented levels of customization, performance enhancement, and rapid innovation. Its future holds the promise of highly personalized, sustainable, high-performance sports shoes that contribute to athlete’s success, while minimizing the risk of injuries. Some examples of 3D printing technologies and initiatives include NIKE Flyprint, adidas Futurecraft, Under Armour ArchiTech, New Balance Fresh Foam, ECCO Quant-U (ECCO), and ASICS GEL-Quantum Infinity.

NIKE is one of the leading patent filers in footwear 3D printing. Some other key patent filers in the field include adidas, Under Armour, ECCO, Authentic Brands, Kornit Digital, and Wiivv Wearables.

In terms of application diversity, PPG Industries leads the pack, while Kyoraku and Alpha MOS stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, NIKE held the top position, followed by Coats Group and Authentic Brands Group.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the sports industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Sports.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.