New technological developments in footwear, including CAD, 3D printers and “smart shoes”, will be showcased at the twin Texprocess and Techtextil trade fairs next May.

Held in Frankfurt from 4 to 7 May, the fairs for processing textiles and flexible materials will focus on the most important trends affecting the industry. These include rapid prototyping, which organisers say is now affordable to even to small companies, thanks to efficient desktop computers costing less than EUR3,000, and coloured consumables.

According to Theo Kuffler, director of RG Technologies, process optimisation offers plenty of potential for cost-cutting, particularly for companies operating in central Europe.

Other issues examined at the events will be the changing demands for workplace and safety footwear: an estimated 60% of workers face foot problems, and there is growing demand for safety shoes in sizes 52/53 and widths up to 15.

Meanwhile, the shoe industry is also facing new definitions for orthopaedic custom-made shoes, and finishing and safety shoes, thanks to a new EU regulation for personal protective equipment.

The events will also look at the phenomenon of mass customisation, where consumers design their own shoes online, and the advantages of direct interaction with consumers and what it reveals about their preferences.