Brazil brings the playful universe of children to the production of molded footwear

2024-05-17 | By Brazilian Footwear


Fifth biggest producer of footwear in the world, Brazil has as one of its main attributes the manufacture of various products, footwear models that serve all segments - children's, women's, men's, sports and safety. There are more than 860 million pairs produced per year, either in a more traditional method or with the molded technique. This process has been growing and combines technology and sustainability in unique creations. And when we talk specifically about the children's universe, the exclusive and playful developments attract attention and are represented in the fifth episode of the Brazilian Footwear series “It's time for Brazilian production”. The initiative of the footwear export support program maintained by Abicalçados in partnership with the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (ApexBrasil) aims to present the different stages of footwear production. 

Steps that for molded shoes are completely different from traditional manufacturing methods. A specialist in children's molded shoes, Plugt produces about 1.5 thousand pairs per day in Birigui/SP from two main raw materials: PVC and EVA, which is a newer and lighter technology. The shoemaker's CEO, Renato Ramires, says that the molded manufacture has a smaller amount of processes compared to the traditional method. "The raw materials, both PVC and EVA, are granular and these grains go through a thermal, thermophysical, temperature molding process. From this, they are injected into an aluminum mold and then the footwear is manufactured”, he details.

With a record of more than 3 thousand colors, the shoemaker, which aims to bring magic to the little ones' world, so that they live their childhood more intensely, currently uses about 20 different colors and shades in the production of rain boots, sandals, babuches, papetes, slides and bags, among other categories of products. “We have a very diverse production. We develop more than 200 models for each collection, which is launched following the schedule of the two major seasons of the year (Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter), that is, every six months”, says Ramires. A curiosity of the production process of molded footwear is related to the fact that all the raw materials used are granular. Therefore, pigments of masterbatch are used in these grains of PVC or EVA to reach the desired show color", he explains.

Sustainable differentials: coconut fiber and bamboo

Always in search of the lowest environmental impact, the company, founded in 2001, does not use heavy metals or phthalates in its production. With the commitment to innovation, Plugt constantly seeks sustainable alternatives to incorporate into the production process of footwear. And one of them is the use of coconut fiber and bamboo in 25% of products. “We use the PVC granular raw material with coconut fiber and bamboo in some lines. This differential of coconut fiber, for example, comes inside the PVC grain, that is, this grain has a smaller amount of plastic polymer, since it has coconut fiber in its composition as well. And this different composition also brings a distinct appearance, since coconut fiber and bamboo are apparent in the shoes”, stresses the CEO, saying that for EVA shoes granular compositions with green EVA and sugar cane are also used. 

Another differential aligned with ESG practices in the children's footwear factory is the process of reusing internal raw materials. That is, nothing is discarded. “If we have any problems in a mold, a product shape, it is ground again and all waste is reused in the production process. In addition, in circular economy, one can receive from the consumer a shoe that they no longer wear. Such footwear again becomes granular raw material. And all this waste is used again in the production process", explains Ramires, pointing out that depending on the colors of the shoes or the reprocessed shapes, they are reused for one function or another. “We have shoes in which up to 90%, 95% of the product is produced from this reuse. This occurs a lot in shoes of darker shades, such as black and navy blue. In more vivid colors, the percentage is lower, but it is also done. And it is important to note that this process does not bring visual changes, nor of product quality if we compare it with a footwear produced with virgin raw material."

Playfulness and technology

The shoes developed by Plugt follow the fundamental tripod of the shoemaker: comfort, safety and lightness. The Brazilian company is present in 25 countries, mainly in Latin America and Europe, bringing the magic of the children's universe through creative and exclusive molded footwear. "We were born as a shoe developer company, we like to use icons that are not overused, such as the alligator, the butterfly, among others. We developed shoes thinking that they also become a toy for children to interact with”, highlights the CEO of Plugt, when exemplifying a babuche that is also a toy car. “It is a children's babuche, but if the child wants to play with the shoe, it turns into a toy car and we achieve this through playfulness. We bring the fantasy to enhance the experience.”

And one of the biggest differentiators of Plugt for the creation of playful shoes is the printing technology used. In the company's production unit, where 100% of the shoes manufactured are molded, digital printing machines with UV ink for the ornaments and EVA props that are incorporated into the products are available for the approximately 40 employees of the shoemaker. “This process eliminates the need for cabin paint and fumes. Thus, all the decorative part that we do in this process is much cleaner and more ecological,” Ramires points out, commenting that the decorations are printed like a printer. “This is one of our biggest differentiators, we can make simultaneous printing in a matter of seconds, with a high quality in which all the details of these creations are shown with a high resolution."

The fifth episode of the series "It's time for Brazilian production", from Brazilian Footwear, is available on social media. 

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