Adidas, the company currently leading the sportswear industry in Europe, has recently announced that it has plans to deliver the first shoe running shoe with an integrated 3D-printed midsole. In their effort to deliver this state-of-the art shoe, Adidas is partnering with Carbon3D Inc., a US based 3D printing company.
Similar news surfaced in the previous years from sports industry giants Nike, Under Armour, and New Balance, but the announced shoes remained either as a prototype or simply weren’t designed for the mass market. With their new announcement, Adidas will be the first company to launch a 3D-printed shoe that will be mass produced.
With a catchy name such as Futurecraft 4D, Adidas hopes to revolutionize the shoe industry. Their initial concept is designed as a running shoe but sources claim that there are plans for further expansion towards a broader spectrum of customers. According to the press release, the new approach represents a “journey to define the future of craftsmanship through exploring new technology”. Not only is Adidas bringing 3D printing into the ports industry, but it is also opening new possibilities for mass manufacturing and increased sportswear performance.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine another company launching the first shoe with 3D printed midsoles. Adidas opted for a collaboration with Carbon3D Inc. due to their proprietary production technology called Continuous Liquid Interface. The new technology will use 17 years worth of data gathered by Adidas from its athletes.
The midsole design uses a combination of polyurethane and a curable resin that was patented by Adidas in partnership with Carbon3D Inc. The resin is part of the elastomer family and is printed in a 3D lattice structure. The result is a high-performance, durable, and lightweight midsole. According to several studies, if the latticework of the 3D printed midsole is optimally designed, it can not only improve the performance of athletes, but also reduce the rate of injuries in several types of sports. Moreover, Adidas and Carbon3D Inc. are working on a new technology that would allow the company to produce a midsole in 20 minutes, down from the current 90 minutes.
As with previous models, Adidas will be using its own Primeknit technology. The outsoles will continue to be designed and created in collaboration with Continental. The fruitful collaboration between Adidas and Continental when it comes to running and other athletic shoes has been going on since 2007. According to claims made by Continental, their outsoles have up to 30% more grip in comparison to competitor outsoles.
If everything goes according to plan, the Futurecraft 4D will be the largest mass-produced 3D-printed product to ever reach consumers from across the world. According to Adidas representatives, the plan to mass-produce the Futurecraft 4D is as follows:
- 300 pairs produced in the first month that will be given to employees and critics from around the world
- 5,000 pairs for retail sale by the end of 2017 that will create an initial consumer base
- Upwards of 100,000 pairs mass-produced by the end of 2018 if the resulting shoe receives positive reviews from both critics and users.
Adidas has already announced that it has no plans to stop the production of the shoe as long as customers are happy and the quality of the shoe remains constant throughout the manufacturing period.