Most of us have heard of 3D printers by now. We’ve read that they are useful for printing rapid prototypes, replacement parts, or art objects. But L&K Manufacturing, a startup company in Bangor, Maine is disrupting 3D printing technology by developing a 3D printer that manufactures footwear. That’s right, manufactures footwear, not just prototypes it. Best of all, they’re doing it right here in Maine.
The shoe industry has a long legacy in Maine, once employing thousands of workers. L&K Manufacturing is creating an opportunity to return footwear manufacturing prominence to Maine, and the founders are thrilled to tie together the old heritage and new technology.
Andrew Katon, L&K Manufacturing co-founder and CEO, says “Through Scratchpad, we’ve had an opportunity to work with shoe manufacturers to make sure that what we’re developing is really needed in the marketplace. Those conversations have led to further discussions with some of the world’s largest shoe manufacturers. We’ve had a really warm welcome in the footwear industry so far.”
Most current footwear manufacturing facilities take up a space the size of a football field, and many are located overseas. L&K’s technology changes that. With one of its 3D printers, the company can produce 20,000 shoes in the space the size of a household oven, making their technology incredibly scalable. And, they can manufacture footwear better, faster, and cheaper than traditional manufacturing, so they’re disrupting an entire industry.
Katon and his co-founder, Vincent Lewis, met at the University of Maine as engineering students when they were researching shock-absorbing materials for the healthcare industry. At the time, they were looking for ways to reduce traumatic brain injuries in elderly patients. Their research used 3D printed prototypes to create models: great for testing, but not acceptable to the medical industry for manufacturing. The two recognized that 3D printing technology had the potential to print functional materials, which wasn’t being done in the industry, so they set out to explore that gap. With their attention on footwear, they applied to the Scratchpad Accelerator.
Katon says, “The biggest thing Scratchpad has helped us with was strategy. We had a lot of passion behind what we did, and we made great designs and great products. But we didn’t have a good knowledge base about how we were going to scale our business. Scratchpad gave us the mentors to help us scale up to a global business.”
To meet the founders of L&K Manufacturing and hear more about their vision, please join the Scratchpad Accelerator for “Demo Day” on December 11 at Season’s Restaurant, 427 Main Street, Bangor. Register now.
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About the Scratchpad Accelerator
With full time support and access to industry experts and mentors, the Scratchpad Accelerator is a pilot program dedicated to helping startup companies uncover answers to critical questions about their businesses. The Scratchpad Accelerator is a University of Maine initiative in collaboration with the Maine Technology Institute.
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