BASF at Simac: Endless possibilities of combining design, performance, and sustainability for footwear

BASF at Simac: Endless possibilities of combining design, performance, and sustainability for footwear

Sustainable PU systems, TPU and E-TPU, 3D printed molds, functional coatings, and the comfort of a sneaker for dress shoes – all these solutions for the footwear industry will be presented by BASF at Simac. The international machinery and technology exhibition for shoes, is being held in Milan from September 22-24. In hall 14, booth G 40, visitors will be given insights into sustainable footwear solutions, high performance materials and coating solutions for shoe soles.

Footwear innovations for circular economy

Future-oriented footwear materials are inconceivable without sustainability. Sustainability is a main pillar of BASF's strategy and an integral part of all business decisions. That is why BASF invests around 2 billion a year in research and development and drives the development of new products that make a significant contribution to sustainability. BASF's approach to a circular economy in footwear consists of three fields of action: Reduce, Recycle, Rethink. At the show, BASF experts will give a deep insight into this approach and present sustainable material solutions for polyurethane systems and thermoplastic polyurethanes.

The main goal is to reduce the consumption of fossil resources and thus CO2 emissions. Elastopan® N (PU systems) and Elastollan® N (TPU) contribute to this, as they are partly based on renewable raw materials such as sugar, corn or castor oil. These bio-based plastic solutions are available in various densities and degrees of hardness and are suitable for all applications in the footwear sector.

In addition, BASF's integrated production system enables the substitution of fossil by renewable feedstock derived from bio-waste. This concept, called the BASF biomass balance approach, can be compared to green electricity: When alternative energy sources (e.g., wind and solar energy) are fed into the power grid, the output of the end product, electricity, remains unchanged. Similarly, at BASF: the biobased or recycled raw materials are fed into the production network at the beginning and then further processed in many steps, e.g., into plastics. This principle offers the advantage that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, and fossil raw materials are saved, while product quality and properties remain the same. For customers in the footwear industry, this also means that the product design and the processing for shoes do not have to be adapted. This concept can be applied to BASF's complete range of PU systems, TPU and E-TPU for footwear.

To achieve the ultimate goal of a circular economy, we need to rethink the production and use of footwear in general. This is the task that Italian designer Linda Lipari, together with designer Pierpaolo Righetto and students from Calzaturiero Politecnico (the School of Footwear Design and Technology) dedicated themselves to during the recent design competition, namely "design in the sign of sustainability". The basis for the students' various creative interpretations is the designers' "RE2.0" sole design. RE implies Restart, Rethink, Recreate, Reconquer the world. The students' unique shoe creations, combinations of design, performance, and sustainability, will be presented at the BASF booth.

Highly elastic soft touch coatings

Furthermore, BASF will present innovative coatings technologies for highly flexible substrates from our Coatings division. These solutions protect, functionalize and color flexible surfaces. They set new standards in design opportunities, individualization and enable BASF's customers to optimize their processes.

As NovaFlex valureTM, BASF markets reverse-coated substrates which can achieve unique optical and haptic properties by combining paint formulation, texture, and carrier material. NovaCoat-D combines in-mold coating and release coating in a new way. Besides its demold properties, the coating provides protection against sunlight, scratches, and dirt. Thanks to its many years of expertise, BASF can offer a wide range of colors and effects and bring in additional functionalities for e.g., shoe uppers and sole.

3D Printing – from molds and tools to completely printed shoes

From 3D printed molds and tools to completely 3D printed shoes – Additive Manufacturing can be a real game changer for the footwear industry. At Simac 2021, BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH with its brand Forward AM presents 3D printed molds and lasts through which development cycles can be shortened tremendously. On top of this, visitors will see completely 3D printed high heels and barefoot shoes as well as midsoles manufactured with latticed designs which enable new ways of cushioning, shock absorption and comfort and which can be tuned to the customer’s specific needs. Lattice designs can be challenging for traditional manufacturing methods but are easy to produce in Additive Manufacturing. So, they perfectly showcase how 3D printing supplements traditional manufacturing methods and how customers benefit from BASF’s cross-technology solutions. This will also be highlighted by a new solution for the shoe industry – presented for the first time at Simac – which combines 3D printing with Infinergy® material.

Infinergy® - the comfort of a sneaker for business shoes

Infinergy® is the expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) and leading high-performance responsive material by BASF. The closed-cell, elastic particle foam combines the properties of TPU with the advantages of foams, making it as elastic as rubber but lighter. It provides exceptional cushioning. Initially it was designed for the world of sports. Since 2015 Infinergy® is used in the midsole of safety shoes and setting new standards for cushioning and comfort in shoes.

These standards are now transferred to business and casual shoes. Professionals who are constantly on the go can now benefit from Infinergy® in particular as it returns the energy in each step, reducing fatigue and dampening shock on joints. Infinergy® offers a natural cushioning effect at the heel and middle part of the foot in the sole. The responsiveness and rebound allows more comfort in movement which is a real relief for professionals battling long-standing hours at work and commute.

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September 13, 2021


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