Origins of Spandex
You think of spandex in underwear, socks and yoga pants but probably not so much in shoes. Spandex has been used in different parts of shoe uppers for some time now but only in the past few years have you seen it being knitted into a singular piece of material for shoe uppers with the aid of computerized knitting machines. A computerized knitting machine can knit spandex fibers three dimensionally into other fibers to create patterns for shoe uppers that are more supportive or stretchy in one area than in another.
It’s really nice that with computerized knitting we can precisely knit spandex into the uppers of our new OESH Dream Flat to create a unique, exceptionally comfortable sock-like feel and fit in a dress shoe. But I think it’s also really nice that we’re using technology that was invented right here in central Virginia. Charlottesville, the home of OESH, is just one town over from Waynesboro, where Dupont came up with spandex in 1958 and trademarked it as Lycra.
Manufacturing in Central Virginia
While most of the manufacturing has moved overseas, the folks who did the manufacturing have not. Manufacturing of spandex didn’t just involve extruding the elastomer. It involved inventing and making machines and equipment to manufacture the extruders themselves. For this reason, you’ll find in Waynesboro experts in just about every manufacturing field – machining, mold-making, injection molding, welding, foundry work, and of course, extrusion.
We’ve been working with David Daughtry, a brilliant machinist from Waynesboro for the last six years, who is probably the most knowledgeable, experienced machinist /tool maker / injection molder / manufacturer in the nation. Dave has taught me so much and has saved the day countless times when, for example, our injection-molding machine would suddenly decide to stop working, at the precise time that we’d have to fulfill a large order of shoes. With support from the National Science Foundation, Dave has helped us create an extrusion process for our 3D printers that uses some of the same technology used to create spandex. In turn, our 3D printing process has allowed us to create and test new designs in footwear based on my medical and human movement research. I could only have dreamed of developing and making these designs without all this technology.
All to say, here at OESH, we’re ESPECIALLY grateful for spandex!
Fun Fact: the word “spandex” is an anagram of “expands”
and the name “OESH” is an anagram of “SHOE”
For more posts by Casey, check out the Best of Casey- Science, Health, and Footwear category of the OESH Blog.