Adidas to mass produce 3D-printed shoe

Today, Adidas announced Futurecraft 4D, the company's first mass-produced, 3D printed shoe. Adidas just unveiled its Futurecraft 4D, whose midsole is 3D printed nearly instantaneously due to a pioneering new technology.

Digital Light Synthesis uses digital light projection, oxygen-permeable optics and programmable liquid resins to generate high-performance, durable polymeric products.

Adidas brought its first 3D-printed shoe, the 3D Runner, to market in December 2016, at which point the company noted that it would be setting up "Speed Factories" that would use advanced manufacturing, like 3D printing, to produce its products. It's faster, too-between 25 and 100 times faster than traditional 3D printers, according to Carbon CEO and cofounder Joseph DeSimone. Soles are usually made with an injection mold. And by reworking a shoe's midsole with 3D printed internal geometries, Adidas and Carbon are heading down a path that has been well trodden by other footwear manufacturers.

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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.

Commercial production of the shoe is hoped to begin later this year.

Futurecraft 4D will be available later this year, with 5,000 pairs due for release in autumn/winter. On Thursday at a private event in Manhattan, adidas' Head of Global Brands held in his left hand the Futurecraft 4D, a running shoe launched by adidas in collaboration with Silicon Valley-based technology startup Carbon.

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Backed by the likes of Sequoia Capital and Google, Carbon's approach to 3D printing embraces an innovative process whereby its light-sensitive polymer resin is applied before being baked for strength.

The small-batch technology is said to lend itself to higher levels of personalization, faster production and better quality. 3D printing is their solution; it is the No. 1 thing on their whiteboard in their conference rooms on how to innovate: "to reduce the amount of time it takes to produce their products, reduce warehouse and fixed costs to move them to the variable tab".

Adidas has been experimenting with 3D printing for a few years now, but for Manz, the Futurecraft 4D marks a personal milestone.

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