Adidas to mass-produce 3D-printed shoe with Silicon Valley start-up

The German sportswear company announced Thursday it is launching the first mass-market 3D-printed shoe, its FutureCraft 4D.

Adidas confirmed that it will work with Carbon to develop new material and machinery for future innovations, and that Digital Light Synthesis will become a part of its Speedfactory that offers consumers bespoke performance products built to their individual physiological data.

That won't be the end either, as its plan to scale up projects more than 100,000 pairs made with the Digital Light Synthesis method by the end of 2018. With its DLS, which uses "digital light projection, oxygen-permeable optics, and programmable liquid resins to generate high-performance, durable polymeric products", the company claims the output is both durable and flexible. This process allows custom shoes to be designed with the athlete's best performance fit in mind. Now, the brand has upped the ante in a big way, introducing a new partnership that will make their 3D-printed sole more than just for show.

The technology also allows for faster, more complete prototyping.

Adidas teamed up with Carbon, a California-based company that describes itself as working "at the intersection of hardware, software, and molecular science".

Although Adidas has existing customization options for customers ordering on their websites, Manz said those features will not be available up front for the Futurecraft shoes.

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The shoes will sell at an unspecified premium price, but Adidas plans to lower the cost as the technology develops.

In December past year, Adidas then followed up with the 3D Runner, a running shoe featuring 3D-printed components for greater elasticity, which the company would go on to release in limited numbers.

What makes all this possible is the 3D-printing process created by Adidas' partner in the venture, Carbon, whose investors include BMW, GE, and Nikon.

According to Joseph DeSimone, Carbon co-founder and chief executive, it's faster and more adaptable than traditional additive printing, and can make mass-production 3D printing a reality.

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. This explains why, despite having unveiled the 3D Runner in the past, Adidas has yet to mass produce any.

  • Rita Burton