The Timberland Company

Timberland Saves Time and Money, Finds the Right Style with 3D Printing

Timberland – Global leader in the design, engineering and marketing of premium-quality footwear, apparel and accessories

Challenge – Obtaining more shoe prototypes sooner to better evaluate comfort, performance and marketability of new designs

Solution - Using the ZPrinter®310 and, later, the Spectrum ZTM510 System to print out prototypes on demand

Results - Dramatic reduction in prototype costs and turnaround time, resulting in more prototyping, better designs and increased revenue

“In our industry, the pressure is always intense to quickly and affordably turn the marketer’s vision and the consumer’s taste into reality that performs well, feels good and looks great. 3D Systems printers have done exactly that for us, compressing our design cycles, lowering our costs and helping us produce better products for our customers.”

– Toby Ringdahl Computer Aided Design Manager Timberland Company

The Timberland Company (NYSE: TBL) has
transcended its humble workboot origins to
become one of the hottest lifestyle brands
on the planet. Whether for work, recreation
or dressing up, every Timberland product
is a compelling blend of form and function
tailored to the needs of every customer.
That’s why it’s important for engineers and
marketers in the $1.5 billion New Hampshirebased
company to collaborate closely in
the development of every product, from
initial concept to prototype to sample and,
ultimately, volume production.

Challenge

Getting Affordable
Prototypes Quickly
The shoe must look good, feel good and
perform well. While the upper is mostly
fashion design, the intense engineering
comes in where the foot meets the insole
and where the outsole meets the street.
Engineers continuously refine concepts for
arch support, tread patterns, materials,
heel stabilizers, orthotic devices and
“lasts” (i.e., foot models) in computer-aided
design (CAD) software.

As recently as 2002, Timberland hired
professional model makers to turn 2D
CAD drawings into 3D prototypes in wood
or foam. These prototypes typically took
a week or more to create at a cost of
$1,200 each. The lead time hamstrung the
company’s ability to refine their models to
their satisfaction in a timely manner. As a
result, the company regularly lengthened
its design cycle or just lived without the
refinements it wished for.

“Time and money aside, the problem with
the old approach is that a 2D CAD drawing
left too much to the imagination,” says Toby
Ringdahl, computer-aided design manager

in the company’s footwear product development
and engineering group. “When the
prototype was finally ready, it wasn’t exactly
what people imagined. But a week is a long
time to wait for a new iteration.”
Timberland realized it needed more
prototypes sooner. The company assigned
Ringdahl’s team to spend six months
evaluating rapid prototyping options.

Solution

3D Printing In House
After weighing alternatives, Timberland
chose the ZPrinter 310 System from
3D Systems, determined to be the fastest
and most affordable 3D printer on the
market. The low cost of printing materials
and the speed of the machine pushed it
ahead of rapid prototyping machines from
Stratasys and Objet.

In 2005, Timberland took the next step by
investing in the Spectrum Z510 System, the
first high-definition color 3D printer on the
market, providing 24-bit color and 600 dpi
resolution. 3D Systems has the only technology
that can print parts in full color, which
communicates design information far more
effectively than monochrome. Color can be
used not only to produce a lifelike object,
but for stress analysis, product labeling, or
to highlight key parts or revisions.

Results

Better Prototypes Faster, Cheaper
The Spectrum Z510 accepts CAD files
from Timberland’s 3D mechanical design
software and produces physical models affordably
and quickly. The performance has
made a substantial impact on Timberland’s
efficiency and spending.

“We can now quickly do
innumerable iterations
and variations, and the
designers and marketing
managers can really be
sure the product is what
Timberland is expecting
and what people on the
street are demanding.”

– Toby Ringdahl
Computer Aided Design Manager
Timberland Company

A more-than-30-fold reduction in prototype cost

An overwhelming reduction in
prototype creation time, from a
week to 90 minutes

 A 33 percent reduction in
design time

Better communication of design
intent through color

Closer collaboration between
design & marketing professionals

Increased sales now that
representatives use real
3D prototypes instead of 2D
sketches

For example, a prototype that used to cost
Timberland $1,200 now costs $35. A prototype
that used to take a week to make now takes
90 minutes, enabling engineering and
marketing employees to collaborate more
often and more closely. And printing out
rapid color prototypes onsite has enabled
Timberland to compress its typical design
cycle from three weeks to two.
The Spectrum’s large build area delivers
additional time savings. Since it is larger
than the ZPrinter 310, engineers can print
full-size prototypes fl at on the build area
instead of on an incline, saving three hours
of printing time on such jobs.
Spectrum’s speed and effi ciency has directly
resulted in continuous product quality
improvement. In the weeks Timberland
recoups by no longer waiting for prototypes,
it can pump out dozens of iterations of a
shoe design if it needs to. As a result, more
designers, engineers and marketers can see
more products in a shorter amount of time,
helping Timberland refi ne its footwear for
fi t, function and style. “We can now quickly
do innumerable iterations and variations,”
Ringdahl says, “and the designers and
marketing managers can really be sure the
product is what Timberland is expecting and
what people on the street are demanding.”
The investment in Spectrum also eliminates
major ancillary costs late in development,
like time-consuming trips around the world
to examine important shoe molds in overseas
plants. Since Timberland can now reach
consensus for designs on 3D physical models,
there’s no longer any need for a careful
examination of the production shoe mold.
Finally, color is a key benefi t. It better
conveys design intent, and the Spectrum’s
unparalleled resolution enables details
like lugs on the sole, speed hooks on the
upper, and tiny print on the sole to show
up perfectly. “The closer the prototype
is to real life, the less you leave to the
imagination,” says Ringdahl. “Unfortunate
surprises are eliminated.”

Results

Higher Sales
While 3D printing seems at fi rst glance like
an engineering tool, it’s making a direct
impact on company revenues in two ways:
One, close collaboration among designers,
engineers and marketers brings to market
a product that is exactly what the market
demands. That means more sales. Two,
Timberland sales people occasionally bring
prototypes to sales calls with major retail
chains, giving them a big advantage over
competitors who come with only sketches.
In these instances, sales people can land
large sales earlier.
“Products that would have been dropped
because of ho hum 2D drawings are being
successfully adopted because customers
can hold multicolor, real-life prototypes in
their hands,” Ringdahl says.
Timberland expects to reap additional
benefi ts from 3D printing in the future.
Engineers will use shape analysis software
and the Spectrum Z510 System to print
prototypes that call out pressure points
and interference in the insole.
“In our industry, the pressure is always
intense to quickly and aff ordably turn the
marketer’s vision and the consumer’s taste
into reality that performs well, feels good
and looks great,” says Ringdahl.
“3D Systems printers have done exactly
that for us, compressing our design cycles,
lowering our costs and helping us produce
better products for our customers.”

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