Soak, a footwear company that began with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, is going high-tech.

Andrew Katon started his 3D printing company four years ago, when he was a University of Maine senior.

The company, which makes most of its slide sandals in Kennebunk, is teaming up with a Bangor startup that makes 3D printers to manufacture shoes.

Cobbler Technologies will start printing the soles of Soak’s shoes later this year. Although the company will still make many of its soles with the traditional injection-mold technology at its factory in Kennebunk, the new method will allow it to make modifications and quickly spin out a few extra pairs of a particularly popular item on a 3D printer.

The key is creating printers that can use traditional materials for shoe soles, such as rubber and foam, said Andrew Katon, president and chief executive officer of Cobbler Technologies. That makes cost of production comparable to conventional injection-mold technologies, Katon said.

Traditionally, soles are made by injecting the materials into molds and then letting them harden. That requires individual molds for each model of the shoe and for every shoe size of that model.

Katon said 3D printers make production more adaptable and changes can be made quickly.

Instead of making new molds to accommodate even slight changes in the design, a process that can take months, “3D printing does that overnight,” Katon said.

Michelle Vale, left, and Elena Corsano founded Soak, a Kennebunk company that has joined with a Bangor tech firm to take advantage of using 3D printers in footwear manufacturing.

That speed, and being able to use materials in 3D printing that can be recycled, is important to Soak, said Michelle Vale, who started the company with Elena Corsano after they reached their fundraising goal.

The two women live in New York and have backgrounds in the fashion industry.

Vale said the company initially marketed its slides through high-end shoe stores and are now focusing on internet sales. The sandals sell for $78 to $85.

Soak also is looking for investors to expand, she said, and having a product with a connection to new technology might make that easier.

Because it takes longer to make a lot of shoes using 3D printing, Vale said it helps to have the traditional method available to continue for high-output runs. But the ability to quickly fill a gap in inventory, or tweak a design, by running a few pairs off a 3D printer will help, she said. It also will give the company the ability to build its business in private-label sandals – made by Soak but marketed under other brand names.

Vale said working with Cobbler also will allow the company to continue to make sandals in the U.S. She said the company has resisted suggestions that production move overseas.

Katon said Cobbler is focusing on production right now to prove the concept to companies such as Soak. The company’s goal is to develop 3D printers for other applications and then sell or lease them to manufacturers. He said Cobbler, which he began as a senior at the University of Maine four years ago, also is looking at using the printers to manufacture products for the aerospace, biomedical and athletic-wear industries.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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