11 Common Manufacturing Techniques Applied to Shoe Making
The main components of a shoe are vamp and sole. But putting them together will not create the kind of shoe that the consumer will be attracted to and purchase. A good pair of high-quality shoes also need decorative accessories and a smooth and polished appearance to make them appealing to the buyer. To achieve this end, shoe manufacturers use some techniques on the upper or the vamp of the shoe. Let us discuss these techniques in the article below.
1. Fused Pattern
The fused pattern is a widespread manufacturing techniques practiced by shoe manufacturers. A fused pattern as the name suggests means that the mold or decorative pattern is attached uniformly to the upper of the shoe. The pattern may be composed of TPU or other materials befitting the shoe material.
2. Debossing & Embossing
A. Debossing in shoe manufacturing means imprinting the brand logo or name in the shoe upper. This is done by die-stamping the shoe upper to create a depression and transfer the imprinted image therein.
B. On the other hand, embossing means putting the logo or brand name on the vamp by raising it to get a 3D graphic. The raised area has a convex shape opposite to debossing which has a convex shape.
These two processes are done with the use of foil stamping or silicon printing. Dies can be created as single or multi-level, sculptured, or polished to get unique and striking designs for logos and brands.
Embroidery in shoe manufacturing mainly refers to the brand logo patterned on the shoe upper. This is usually done for bespoke shoes or private-label brands when specified. Embroidery can be done by hand utilizing the skills of highly experienced craftsmen or through scanning the pattern, with technical inputs and multiple machines. The thread for embroidery purposes tends to be in bright and distinctive colors so the embroidered logo stands out.
4. Silicone Printing
Silicone printing is a commonly utilized lithographic printing technique in the shoe manufacturing industry. A rubber blanket is used to create the image from the printing plate to the targeted part. Silicone printing precisely reproduces the original image of the logo with its color, contrast, and level intact on the targeted surface.
5. 3D Printing & Silk Printing & Transfer Printing
A. 3D printing means if you view the printed image it looks like a 3D version instead of 2D and also may appear differently if viewed from different angles. It is also called lenticular printing. It is done by recording different angles and pixels on photosensitive substances. It is a common manufacturing technique generally used in vulcanized rubber shoes. The major part of the shoe’s upper is printed to give it a distinct look. The upper looks like a canvas on which 3D art has been painted.
B. Silk printing uses silk as a printing plate base. The ink is poured on the silk printing plate while pressing it through a scraper into the targeted part. The ink is transferred uniformly to the substrate thus creating the intended logo.
C. Transfer printing is usually used to print patterns of customized images and photographs on the substrate. Digital patterns are transferred through a printer to specially prepared paper and ink. Then these patterns are transferred to the shoe upper under high pressure and temperature. The use of a digital printer eliminates the need for plate making, color setting, or using complicated dyeing processes. The digital printer used for this purpose can do multi-color printing and print complex colors and patterns on largely flat materials like fabrics, metal, crystal, leather, coated paper, and wood. It does not damage the substrate and is thus fit for mass production.
6. Rubber Patch
Rubber patches are commonly found on shoe uppers as an embellishment or a brand name. Thermoplastic polymer rubber is utilized for this purpose. This material when heated achieves a viscous flow state and becomes solid at room temperature. Thermoplastic polymer rubber goes through a hot injection molding process to create a rubber patch in the intended shape. Rubber patches are used to brand and trademark custom-made footwear and shoes created for private label brands.
7. Woven Label & Ribbon
A. The woven label is a brand name or woven mark sewed or attached to the shoe upper. It is mostly made of washable polyester fabric in bright colors. The brand name, font, and patterns are printed on the woven label as per the customer’s requirements. Woven labels are of two types, trimming woven labels and woven edge labels.
B. The ribbon means attaching thin or circular stripes made of different fabrics or threads. The fabrics may be of different varieties like plain weave, satin weave, twill weave, double-layer, multi-layer, jacquard, tubular and joint weave. The ribbons are stitched onto the shoe upper bearing the brand name or logo or just for imparting the shoe an eye-catching appeal.
8. Metal Icon
A metal icon as the name suggests is an icon attached, stitched, or pasted to the shoe vamp. It elevates the look of the shoe and is mostly used in premium leather shoes. It can be the brand logo or a design to enhance the look of the shoe. The icon and its placement are closely checked beforehand during usability and viability tests so that it is safe to use and does not harm the end consumer in any way possible.
9. Plastic Icon
Plastic icons are used in shoe vamps to provide the shoes a unique and distinctive look. These are mostly composed of synthetic or natural resin. By mixing, plasticizing, and using hot molding injections, these are given the intended shape and then attached to the shoe upper.
10. Decorative Thread & Decorative Puncturing
A. The decorative thread as the name suggests is the use of stitching threads in different colors and materials as suggested by the customer on to the shoe vamp. This increases the shoe appeal and look.
B. Decorative puncturing means punching holes or perforation in shoes. This is not done randomly but in a specific pattern. This is done to either create the logo or a specific shape attached to the brand. This is also done on the front part of the vamp for air to flow freely and thus keep feet cool and dry while engaging in strenuous physical activities. The perforation in leather shoes is continuing for centuries and the pattern is referred to as broguing and the shoes are thus named ‘Brogues’.
11. Binding & Folding
A. The binding is oblique or hooked stitching done on the edges of the vamp for elevating the shoe appeal.
B. The folding is a technique generally used on the edge of the shoe upper. The edges are folded and stitched requiring dense threading. It gives the shoes a good aesthetic appeal.
The shoe manufacturing techniques explained above are commonly used during the shoemaking process. There are several other equally interesting techniques used in creating specialized shoes but these eleven are the most prevalent. Other techniques we may touch upon in the future.