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7 April 2006 PR 06/25

 

World’s first fully customised football boot accelerated by Rapid Manufacturing experts


British firm Prior 2 Lever’s invention of the first-ever football boot designed uniquely for the individual player is supported by pioneering Rapid Manufacturing research from Loughborough University. Selective Laser Sintering, an innovative platform technology already used in the International Space Station and Formula 1 cars, now opens up the possibility of personalised, high performance soccer footwear.

Prior 2 Lever (P2L) has combined world-class expertise in podiatry and performance footwear design to create boots uniquely designed to meet the needs of professional and elite athletes. Having spent many years perfecting the knowledge to create a ‘corrective geometry’ for an outsole individually designed for maximum support and reduced injury, P2L approached Loughborough’s Rapid Manufacturing Research Group to help realise their unique invention.

Aided by a DTI grant, the Loughborough team and P2L looked into various manufacturing processes including injection moulding and machining(1) before declaring selective laser sintering(2) the most competitive. “Selective laser sintering is ideal for bespoke football boots, as such small batches of outsoles are needed for each player,” says research director Dr Neil Hopkinson. “There is no need for expensive moulds or tooling and the CAD model reproduction is so precise that the exact ‘corrective geometry’ can be realised.”

Despite its widespread commercial application, such as components for the US Navy / Boeing Super Hornet jet fighter, selective laser sintering needed to be tested specifically for use in football boots. Having proved the process could cost-effectively produce bespoke outsoles, the challenge remained to prove that laser sintered outsoles were durable yet light and flexible enough for professional football. “Partnering P2L provided the perfect opportunity for us to challenge the technical boundaries of rapid manufacturing,” says Hopkinson.

Meeting this challenge created a basis for P2L to bring to market a truly innovative new product by exploiting the UK knowledge base, through Loughborough’s Rapid Manufacturing Research Group. P2L and Loughborough partnered a Premiership football club to complete the 12-month project, using government funding from the Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre.

The culmination of the research is marked by the launch on 6 April of Assassin, P2L’s performance soccer footwear featuring laser sintered outsoles and hand-crafted one-piece leather uppers.

ENDS

For further information contact:

On screen images and digital photographs of the outsoles and video footage of the laser sintering process are available from Anna Seddon. Please contact Anna Seddon to arrange your own photography / video production.

Notes to editors

  1. (1) Injection moulding tooling costs were too high, considering that a unique machined mould was needed to make a small number of boots for each footballer. Injection moulding also restricts the shapes that can be made, where selective laser sintering opens up a host of design freedoms allowing major improvements in the way products both look and perform. Direct machining of outsoles was also ruled out, as the required shapes are difficult to produce – especially in polymers, which can warp so the unique geometry is lost.

    (2) The selective laser sintering process involves taking a highly detailed computer-aided design (CAD) model which is sliced into discreet 2D layers. Each layer of the part is created by using a laser to scan across the surface of a powder bed, fusing adjacent particles where required. The next layer is then created by scanning the next 2D slice. There is no need for expensive moulds or tooling and the CAD model reproduction is so precise that the exact ‘corrective geometry’ can be realised.

  2. Rapid Manufacturing Research Group. Loughborough University
    http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/mm/research/rapid-manufacturing
    Independently assessed as the world’s leading university research group in Rapid Manufacturing (source: World Technology Evaluation Centre, USA), Dr Neil Hopkinson, Dr Richard Hague and Professor Phill Dickens have published the world’s first book dedicated to Rapid Manufacturing, Rapid Manufacturing: an industrial revolution for the digital age (Wiley Publishing).

    Dr Neil Hopkinson has worked in the field of Rapid Prototyping, Tooling and Manufacturing for over 10 years and is a member of various technical panels / committees globally. He pioneered the first work to assess the economic feasibility of series Rapid Manufacture – opening the door for a truly disruptive technology that may help to bring manufacturing back to the west.

  3. Prior 2 Lever (P2L)
    http://www.prior2lever.com
    P2L is an interdisciplinary design partnership specialising in bespoke performance footwear for professional athletes. Its footwear has been designed in response to the needs of professional and elite athletes and is determined by years of research by P2L.

    The company comprises Trevor Prior, a podiatrist working with numerous professional and elite athletes, Greg Lever-O’Keefe, a performance footwear designer, and Volker Junior, a consultant for technology integration specialising in layer manufacturing and mass customisation strategies.

  4. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

    In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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