It’s been a fascinating couple of years for high tech sneaker heads, between self-lacing Nikes and Adidas’ experiments with 3D printed midsoles and biodegradable yarn. Asics isn’t generally uttered in the same breath as those sorts of bleeding edge offerings, but the running shoe company has just debuted a pretty compelling new take on the manufacturing process.
The new technique, developed alongside Taiwan’s Tayin Research & Development Co., Ltd., promises customization, while offering up a relatively sustainable solution to shoemaking — two concepts that tend not to go hand-in-hand in the garment industry. According to Asics, the process utilizes heat generated by microwaves to fuse different materials together, in order to create the shoe’s midsole.
Asics is just offering a sneak preview of the technology at the moment, as it’s still in the testing phase — but if all goes according to plan, it could be rolled out to the point of sale. Somewhere down the road, the company plans to bring actual production microwaves to shops, so customers can select their custom shoe design in person. It’s not too dissimilar to the kind of customization Adidas is currently offering up in its New York flagship, but the whole shoe cooking process takes as little as 15 seconds to complete, which should cut significantly into your store browsing time.
That’s also significantly shorter than the 3D printing process many companies are currently exploring for their own shoes. And it apparently cuts the process’s energy consumption down by nearly 90-percent, compared to the company’s current midsole-making techniques.
For the time being, Asics isn’t offering much in the way of additional information, beyond the above visuals that look more like a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit than anything I’d like to put on my feet. Scalability is a pretty big open question, as well. The company say it’s going to bring it to “select footwear ranges in the future,” but as with 3D printing, it’s likely to stay more of a limited novelty, at least in the short term.