I recently had the chance to catch up with the guys over at Proof of Concept. Their diverse backgrounds and experience in the business certainly gives them a unique perspective on the industry. Check out how they see the industry changing and the technology they are using to do it.
For those unfamiliar with Proof of Concept, can you tell us about what you do?
Proof of Concept, inc. is consulting firm consisting of four athletic footwear veterans that have over seventy-five years of footwear experience, with most of those being at industry leaders like Nike and adidas. Our primary area of expertise is that we use cutting-edge 3D software and hardware to help companies take new product ideas from their initial concept to prototyping through the creation of a final tech package. In additional, if necessary, we can also oversee the factory development, commercialization and initial production.
You guys have all been involved in the footwear industry for a while now. Can you tell us about your backgrounds?
All four of us have different backgrounds, be we also worked for and with each other and ended up having a great deal of cross over experiences. For example, Vlad Chovrun started working in footwear factories in Eastern Europe and eventually immigrated to the US where he primarily worked as a last expert and pattern engineer for adidas and Nike. Gary Pitman entered the industry as a hand model maker for Nike, and eventual rose through the organization with moves to Korea and Thailand, where he helped manage various production processes. He then joined adidas, moved to Germany, where he set-up their worldwide prototyping facilities for both footwear and apparel. Joe Piedmont started his footwear career as 2D hand drafter for adidas. He was then promoted to be the CAD manager and oversaw the transition from hand drafting to 2D CAD to 3D modeling at adidas. Finally, Todd Miller started his footwear career as a biomechanics research and test manager at a small company called Avia. As his career progressed, he worked in the areas of advanced concepts, design management and eventually ended up at adidas managing the footwear prototyping department.
How have you seen the footwear industry change over the years?
When we first started in the industry, many of the established athletic footwear companies you see in the market today either didn’t exist or were just starting up. In addition, product creation processes were very slow, inaccurate and frustrating.
For example, back in the early 90’s designers would use pen and paper to create design drawings and those drawings would be mailed to Asia. This would initiate the slow, frustrating process of sending drawings, models, faxes, and having numerous phone call to with the goal being to create a half-pair sample that was ready for commercialization. This process could take 4 – 6 months and often, because of the communication issues and challenges to get the project correct, the designer, developer and sometimes the marketing manager would need to make a trip or sometimes two to the factory during this period. So, as you can see, a lot of time and money was required to bring a new product to market.
This is what led the larger companies to create their own prototype facilities staffed with technical footwear people running computer driven product creation software and hardware. These were the departments that our team developed, staffed and managed. Products could be designed and prototyped in a few weeks rather than months and the amount of travel to Asia was greatly reduced. This allowed the industry leading companies like Nike and adidas to bring innovative product to market faster and less expensively.
Since leaving these companies, we are now helping the mid-sized and smaller companies take advantage of these technologies.
Proof of Concept is a sales partner for Delcam Crispin, a 3D software package specific to footwear. What are some of the Delcam Crispin features that make it a unique tool for footwear design?
Yes – Delcam Crispin is one of a small number of companies who make software specifically for the footwear industry. Footwear is different than many other consumer products in that it is required to simultaneously function as a comfortable, wearable product while still having high aesthetic appeal. In addition, the production processes involve both flat 2d materials that are cut, stitched, and cemented and 3D components that are molded. The Delcam Crispin software has modules and functionality that addresses all these as you design in 3D.
How do you see 3D software / 3D printing changing the industry over the next few years?
Yes – first, there are many mid-sized to smaller companies who either aren’t aware of the 3D processes now available and the time and money they can save in the product creation process, or they are aware of them and they just haven’t made the commitment to invest and improve their procedures. So – this is one area that 3D technologies can continue to change the industry.
A second area that is gathering momentum is the use of virtual or digital shoes in many aspects of the business. Currently, the basis for most decision making points throughout the product creation process are physical samples. For example, when it comes making color blocking decision meetings or sales presentations to retailers or when creating images for the web or catalogs actual shoe samples are always present. However, companies that have 3d data created for product creation are realizing they can leverage these assets and create virtual samples that can be used in place of physical samples at many of these decision points. The leading edge companies are already starting to see financial savings from these processes.
Finally, as labor and raw materials prices in Asia markets continue to climb, more and more brands are investigating the possibility of bring footwear production processes back to the US. We expect digital technologies to also play a key role in helping this happen.
Where can designers go to try the Delcam Crispin Software?
Here is the link for Shoemaker – e software – a free version of the 3D design software:
Also – here is a link with a youtube video demonstrating the software:
Where can the community go to learn more about Proof of Concept?
Our website is www.yourproofofconcept.com. However, fair warning, our site needs updating and within the next few months we should have a completely new and improved site.