Adidas, Carbon take giant step into mass customization of athletic shoes

A sneaker sole emerges from the bath after being printed
A sneaker sole emerges from the bath after being printed
Author

08 April, 2017

Reuters reported that Adidas and Carbon will be able to produce the "Futurecraft 4D" shoes at a speed suitable for mass production.

In Adidas's case, digital light synthesis results in a sole that works just as well as one made in an injection mold and has similar costs and production times.

Eric Liedtke Adidas executive board member for global brands said the group is "unlocking a new era in design and manufacturing" driven by athlete data and agile manufacturing processes, "transforming not just what we make, but how we make it".

Adidas hopes to sell 5,000 pairs of its "Futurecraft 4D" this year, and 100,000 next year as Carbon cuts the time it takes to print a sole from the current hour-and-a-half to as low as 20 minutes per sole. What makes this shoe so special? And since they're 3D printed all it would take is a slight tweak of a design file to make a pair more springy or stable.

A look at the Futurecraft 4D's 3D-printed midsoles. But few 3D printed shoes are widely available yet.

Adidas said it analyzed a library of running data to come up with the ideal design for the sole.

This particular version of shoes have been designed with an eye towards ensuring that they are suited for mass production using 3-D printing.

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Initially Adidas will release 300 pairs of the Futurecraft 4D trainers in April 2017. The technology will be an "integral" part of the Adidas Speedfactory concept, says the company, providing consumers with bespoke performance products tailored to their individual physiological data. It didn't say how much the Futurecraft 4D will cost, except to explain that it will come at a premium to start.

The sneakers will be produced in collaboration with startup Carbon 3D using a method better known as "Continuous Liquid Interface Production" which ultimately relies on ultraviolet light for the 3D printing process.

Adidas last month experimented with a pop-up store where customers could design a custom-fitted sweater and have it knitted in the store.

3D printing produces fairly rigid output.

Adidas and Carbon have the manufacturing technology to bring 3D printed shoes mainstream.

What's interesting about this project is the challenges Adidas says Carbon's technology can solve.

And, unlike most 3D printing, the process can move at a quick pace.


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