Adidas to mass produce 3D-printed shoe

Brittany BishopApr 08, 2017

At a recent event in New York City, Adidas unveiled the Futurecraft 4D, a shoe it essentially chiseled by light.

"With Digital Light Synthesis, we venture beyond limitations of the past, unlocking a new era in design and manufacturing".

Unlike additive 3D printing, Carbon's proprietary CLIP technology leans on oxygen permeable optics, digital light projection, and programmable liquid resins to manufacture an object.

It's called the Futurecraft 4D, and it's the first performance shoe crafted from a remarkable resin that is custom-molded by light into a lattice-like sole-"air, light, and oxygen", in Adidas' marketing parlance. It's still unclear how much the Futurecraft4D will sell for, but Adidas is hoping to make it cheaper than last year's show, which cost $333.

Can a 3D-printed vehicle change the auto industry? Adidas made more than 50 prototypes over the past year to test this particular release, and the possibilities for future releases are endless. With this data, the company mapped out "functional zones", such as those related to cushioning and stability, that were designed into the 3D-printed midsole. But few 3D printed shoes are widely available yet.

Additionally, for the full potential of customizable 3D-printed shoes to become mainstream, Adidas would have to come up with a retail experience that would measure a customer's foot, gait, and other key data points.

The latest move from Adidas sees it embracing new technology for its footwear.

Adidas says that a great deal of thought has gone into the Futurecraft 4D.

The cost of a pair of Futurecraft 4Ds is not yet known, but Adidas says it will be in the "premium" price range.

"What you can do is introduce more types of products without a cost penalty", said Terry Wohlers, head of Wohlers Associates, a USA consultancy specializing in 3D printing.

But with Carbon's 3D printing process they can simply change the geometry of the lattice to make different areas firmer or softer.

Traditional 3D printers are slower, more expensive and often create products which are not as good as those created by injection moulds - used to produce hundreds of millions of shoes each year.

Their technology cuts the time it takes to print the shoe's sole from an hour and a half to as little as 20 minutes.

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