One of the world’s most famous shoe brands has jumped onto the additive manufacturing train. In a major reveal, Adidas announced their plans to launch its first mass produced 3D printed sneakers (the soles that is), the Futurecraft 4D. The company has experimented with 3D printing before, but never on this scale. As of now, they have plans to produce 5,000 in the first batch this year. They plan to make a 100,000 sneakers by 2018.
The company has partnered with Carbon for this venture. They are the only company that can supply both incredible print speeds as well as advanced 3D printing materials that are needed for a shoe sole. For this project Adidas uses a custom-built version of the Carbon M2 3D printer.
The business strategy for this line of footwear is also worthy of note. While this is just the first step, the company has elaborated on possible directions of their ventures.
Future models of the sneakers could be highly personalised and custom-tailored for each customer. “Individualization will come, but you’ve got to learn to walk before you run,” said Gerd Manz of Adidas. This represents an exciting set of possibilities for the company. 3D printing presents easy options for switching up the design between production runs. Each batch could be significantly different from the last with a few minor tweaks.
At this point, the cost per pair is unknown. While the company has not announced a price, it has stated that the shoes are going to be in the premium price range. This is to be expected considering that the initial run of the sneakers will be quite limited.
Carbon has made many different partnerships and collaborative deals over the past few years. It is funded by General Electric and Google. The company pioneered the CLIP 3D printing technology, and Digital Light Synthesis process, the fastest 3D printing method in the world.
Carbon’s involvement with Adidas means that they will be using CLIP. The company has stated that this method allows them to go from design to production faster than ever. The method utilises a pool of resin and shines light into to solidify a print. While expensive, the speed CLIP printing allows is worth the price.
Featured Image retrieved from Adidas.