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Managing Editor  | April 2017

Adidas leading the way towards mass-produced, 3-D printed shoes

As has previously been reported on Plastics eMarket, German athletics apparel giant Adidas has been heavily invested in 3-D printing as a possible avenue for production of its footwear lines. This month, Adidas announced a new breakthrough with its Futurecraft 4D shoes produced with Digital Light Synthesis technology created by California startup Carbon.



Adidas has partnered with California startup Carbon on a process to create
its new sneakers. (Adidas)


The midsole of the Futurecraft 4D was created with Carbon’s new technology that did not require traditional prototyping or molding, according to Adidas. This puts Adidas on the brink of mass production using additive manufacturing techniques, which keeps the company ahead of competitors such as Nike, Under Armour and others that are also exploring 3-D printing technology to manufacture athletic footwear.


Eric Liedtke, adidas Group Executive Board Member responsible for global brands, said, “With Digital Light Synthesis, we venture beyond limitations of the past, unlocking a new era in design and manufacturing. One driven by athlete data and agile manufacturing processes. By charting a new course for our industry, we can unleash our creativity- transforming not just what we make, but how we make it.”


Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) incorporates Carbons’ proprietary CLIP technology to use digital light projection, oxygen permeable optics, and programmable liquid resins to produce parts that, according to the company’s website, have “excellent mechanical properties, resolution, and surface finish.”


The company insists that the DLS process produces parts that are closer to injection molding than traditional 3-D printing. Also, DLS parts have consistent mechanical properties in all directions, not just the direction that they were printed.


According to Carbon, “The heart of the CLIP process is the ‘dead zone’ – a thin, liquid interface of uncured resin between the window and the printing part. Light passes through the dead zone, curing the resin above it to form a solid part. Resin flows beneath the curing part as the print progresses, maintaining the ‘continuous liquid interface’ that powers CLIP.”


This new process makes it easier for Adidas to create the dynamic midsole that runners require. It can now quickly design a sole that has softer and firmer areas depending on what provides the best support for customers.


Dr. Joseph DeSimone, Carbon Co-Founder and CEO, said, “Despite the influence of technology to improve almost every other aspect of our lives, for eons the manufacturing process has followed the same four steps that make up the product development cycle – design, prototype, tool, produce. Carbon has changed that; we’ve broken the cycle and are making it possible to go directly from design to production.


“We’re enabling engineers and designers to create previously impossible designs, and businesses to evolve their offerings, and FutureCraft 4D is evidence of that. Our partnership with adidas will serve as an ongoing testament to how the digital revolution has reached the global manufacturing sector, changing the way physical goods are designed, engineered, made, and delivered.”


According to an article from TechCrunch, Adidas is planning on selling 5,000 pairs of the new shoes by fall with an increase in production to 100,000 pairs by 2018. The expectation is that the shoes will be priced as limited editions.


Learn more about Futurecraft 4D in the video below:

Kamweld Intro

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