Zensah leads the way in 3D Printing

Zensah’s 3D Printing Initiative was featured at Outdoor Retailer Summer 2013

3D Printing Zensah

3D Printing Zensah

3D printers have been giving designers at bigger brands a fast look at prototypes without a trip to Asia for some time. And now you can see what the fuss is about, because there are several printers in action at ORSM.

At Zensah (#39170), engineer James Johnston has been busy feeding colorful threads of rubberized plastic into a 3D printer to make what the company calls “sneaker swag,” or little bragging items bearing race distances like 26.2 or 13.1.

The printers build prototypes, usually up to the size of a softball, by running plastic filament from spools into a heated nozzle that drops the plastic onto a surface layer by layer until it becomes a three-dimensional product. Ira Marcus, sales representative for GoEngineer, which sells 3D printers and computer-aided design (CAD) software, said there has been tremendous interest in the products his company is showcasing at the show’s new Industrial Design Center.

Kevin Quach, GoEngineer’s rapid prototyping specialist, said currently many outdoor companies have to spend a lot of money and time sending out designs to third-party companies to get prototypes made. With a 3D printer, companies can get prototypes “printed” faster in-house, which means that testing can also happen sooner.

Zensah’s 3D printer is a $3,000 product that’s more for hobbyists and is about the size of a microwave. Zensah CEO Ze’ev Feig said the company isn’t unique in using 3D printers, but what makes it different is his employees are making final products for sale while other companies are using them for prototypes.

One day, Johnson said, he hopes to see 3D printers making bigger final products for immediate sale. For Zensah, which specializes in compression wear that might be a reality sooner than you’d think.

Quach said he’s been showing folks the ins and outs of only two of the many types of 3D printing: stereolithography — making models from liquid plastic hardened by a laser — which creates highly detailed but less sturdy products that are used more as models; and fused deposition modeling, which creates a more durable product that can be used for real-world product testing.

Originally published in Outdoor Retailer Daily 2013