How Shoe Outsole Tooling is Made

How Shoe Outsole Tooling is Made

If you want to learn how shoe outsole tooling is made you are in the right place! All new outsole tooling starts with a designer’s drawing.  The designer should have followed the last bottom outline to get the shape close to the final design.  The shoe factory outsole technician will create a 2-D drawing for the designer to review.  The shoe factory’s technician has a lasted upper so that he can draw a top net that fits the shoe correctly.   Once the 2-D drawings are confirmed by the designer,  mold factory will make a 3-D CAD drawing that will be used to cut a prototype part.

Before any metal is cut, high density REN foam is cut so the designer and shoe factory can check all the details.   The REN foam is soft when compared to metal and can be cut very quickly.  The REN cutting machine running at high speed can cut the top, sides, and bottom of a new outsole design in just a few hours.  Shoe tooling for midsoles and outsoles is made the same way.

The REN model may be painted and sent to the designer for study.  The REN model can also be joined with the lasted upper to get the idea of what the final completed shoe will look like.

After the REN is approved, the design is sent to the metal shop. Depending on design, the metal may be cast, burned by high voltage electric discharge, or CNC cut by a computer controlled milling machine.  The molds are made from steel and aluminum. The flat rubber mold will be made from steel and cut by a CNC machine.  A midsole mold with high sidewalls and undercuts will be made from cast aluminum.  If the mold is made by casting process a REN must be made of each size, left and right. CNC cut molds don’t require every size to be cut.

While most of the footwear mold is created by machine, hand work is still required to make sure everything fits correctly.  Outsole and midsole parts must fit together tightly for good bonding. After a test pressing the outsole molds are returned to the shop for some rework.  This mold shop will also repair an outsole mold that has been damaged or worn out during production.  While the mold factory may be a loud and dirty place to visit, if you want to see how Shoe Outsole Tooling is made it’s worth a visit!  You will see many types of molding equipment for shoe soles.

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