What Adidas wants to do, they write, is sneakers “with varying properties on the midsole to improve the performance of the shoe for different sports.” But this is currently out of reach using standard production practices:
“Midsoles cannot be injection or compression molded in one piece with properties that vary from part to part. Although they can be assembled from multiple parts through a high labor intensive, this introduces multiple potential points of failure.”
Looking for a solution, they teamed up with digital manufacturer Carbon, who developed a DLS (Digital Light Synthesis) resin-based 3D printing process that they claim is fast enough for real world production, not only for prototyping.
Carbon has also developed a printing material called EPU 41, which they describe as “highly elastic, tear-resistant and energy-returning.” Adidas reckons that’s good enough for a midsole.
The language of the release isn’t entirely clear, but it looks like the two are collaborating to release a product or platform called Futurecraft 4D.
“Together, we are developing the first mass-production process that creates previously impossible midsole geometries with revolutionary 3D-printable materials, paving the way for personalized, high-performance footwear that meets the unique needs of each customer.”
The next step is unclear; the best we have to say are statements that “Adidas will be able to use this production process to manufacture custom shoes with ultimate performance tailored uniquely to each customer” and that “this new production process has already enabled adidas to put a new shoe design in front of selected athletes to better understand customer needs around Futurecraft 4D and ultimately create a better performing shoe.”