The same relentless drive is what motivates Axis Liu, Head of Design at the Chinese athletic wear start-up Bmai. In overseeing and continually evolving the design of the Bmai flagship running shoe Mile 42K Lite, which was designed specifically for runners who aspire to join the sub-four hour marathon club, Axis and his team are always looking for new materials and processes.
Ever since the first running shoes were introduced, it has been a race for ever lighter, reinforcing and more cushioning materials. Carbon fiber-based composites tick a lot of boxes in terms of high performance and light weight. However, they have been held back by lack of cost-effective and scalable manufacturing processes, driving up the price and making it difficult to integrate them into high-volume products. But all of this is about to change with Maezio™, a continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) composite material from Covestro, and an exciting collaboration with the team at Bmai.
Few outside China may have heard of this rising star of the Chinese start-up scene, but since Bmai was launched in 2014, it has earned the respect of dedicated athletes. The Bmai design studio consists of a team of designers with a wealth of experience in the industry, including at the Chinese sportswear giant Li Ning, which is where Axis started out as a designer. At Bmai, he is firmly steering the team’s efforts towards making products that will attract serious athletes, but with an equally attractive price tag.
“When I found out about the thermoplastic composites from Covestro, it didn’t take long for me to realize this material would be extremely valuable in terms of technical performance and manufacturability,” says Axis. Plans were made quickly for creating a limited edition version of the Mile 42K Lite, using Maezio™ in the shank – a support wedged between the in- and outsole of the shoe that helps stabilize runner’s feet. This material is an obvious candidate for the job – thin, lightweight and strong, as well as easy to form and integrate into the shoe.