Carbon & adidas: Mass-Production with 3D Printing
adidas new addition to its FutureCrafts series hasn’t disappointed: adidas just announced it would partner with Carbon to bring, once again, additive manufacturing into the sports industry. Together, they will create a 3D printed shoe, the FutureCraft 4D, whose midsole will be manufactured using Carbon’s CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) 3D printing technology.
It’s not the first time the shoe industry uses 3D printing: it is widely used by sports brands for prototyping, as well as small series: adidas and Under Armour each released their version of a shoe partly created with the SLS (selective laser sintering) 3D printing technology, respectively the FutureCraft 3D and the Architect. So what’s different about this latest release? What’s different is that these shoes will be mass-produced through fast production, directly with 3D printing, making them an important milestone for the 3D printing field.
What is adidas’ FutureCraft?
The FutureCraft 4D is the sequel to FutureCraft series, which aims to define the future of craftsmanship through innovative technologies, design, and partnership. Before the FutureCraft 4D, adidas unveiled two other products of the series:
1. FutureCraft Biosteel.
Committed to innovation, the FutureCraft Biosteel Fiber was introduced in 2016. It is a prototype shoe that was made from 100% Biosteel Fiber using a natural based and fully biodegradable material.
2. FutureCraft 3D
The FutureCraft 3D is first chapter of FutureCraft to include 3D printing in its production. This sequel produced a 3D printed midsole that can be customized to the cushioning needs of each individual’s foot. Contrary to FutureCraft 4D that will be mass-produced, FutureCraft 3D was a limited series.
FutureCraft 4D made possible by the CLIP 3D printing technology.
What is the CLIP technology?
Carbon’s CLIP technology uses the DLS (Digital Light Synthesis) process. Thanks to digital light projection, oxygen-permeable optics and liquid resin, this process can produce a durable and resistant polymeric goods. CLIP technology is able to produce high resolution and strong parts, in several mechanical resins, such as prototyping acrylate, rigid polyurethane (RPU), elastomeric polyurethane (EPU), cyanate ester and flexible polyurethane.
We are one of the few online 3D printing services to provide the CLIP resins directly online and to have partnered with them on their SpeedCell program. Read more about our CLIP resins here.
3D printing key in creating this midsole complex design
To manufacture the midsole, Carbon uses EPU 40 (Elastomeric Polyurethane), which is very soft and resistant and can bend like rubber. adidas and Carbon designed a lattice pattern that couldn’t have been possible with another technology than 3D printing. Thanks to this 3D printed lattice pattern that is both stiff and resilient, adidas claims they can provide higher comfort and performance for athletes in terms of stability, movements, and cushioning.
Read more about how 3D printing allows to create complex designs.
3D printing allows to create adaptable designs
Another advantage of 3D printing is that it allows to adapt the design. Individual customization is not announced in the adidas press release, but they do mention analysing their “library of running data to shape functional zones into a midsole design crafted through Digital Light Synthesis”. It’s easy to imagine this midsole being updated according to the new data adidas would get from its running analysis and from the feedback of the users. Indeed, each sole is 3D printed separately in the CLIP machine, and creating a unique one only costs the design updating time.
3D Printing and Fast Production: adidas plans Mass Production by 2018
3D Printing is not just for prototyping: it is for production too! Mass production, even.
Looking back their motto “Stop Prototyping, start producing” adidas and Carbon are taking 3D printing one step further, directly to mass production: 300 pairs will be produced in April 2017, by the fall/winter 2017, it will be 5000 pairs, and the aim is to reach 100.000 pairs of FutureCraft 4D in 2018. As strong advocators of 3D printing as a legitimate option for production (and not just prototyping and small series), we at Sculpteo are very enthusiastic about this announcement. adidas, a very mainstream brand, is giving visibility to 3D printing as a mass production option, and this is a milestone to keep in mind.
Fast production: 9 times faster with 3D printing
This partnership tackles the misconception of using 3D printing to mass manufacturing, that it would be too time-consuming or that the material selection would be restrictive. The goal of Carbon is to shorten the production cycles by up to 9 times. As you’ll see in the video below: go from “Design, prototyping, tooling, production” to “Design, Production”. At the moment, the adidas midsole takes 90 minutes to be 3D printed with the Carbon technology. However, Carbon and adidas are working to improve the machinery, and shorten the production time to 20 minutes.
As Dr. Joseph DeSimone, Carbon Co-Founder and CEO stated:
“Despite the influence of technology to improve almost every other aspect of our lives, for eons the manufacturing process has followed the same four steps that make up the product development cycle – design, prototype, tool, produce. Carbon has changed that: we’ve broken the cycle and are making it possible to go directly from design to production. We’re enabling engineers and designers to create previously impossible designs, and businesses to evolve their offerings, and FutureCraft 4D is evidence of that. Our partnership with adidas will serve as an ongoing testament to how the digital revolution has reached the global manufacturing sector, changing the way physical goods are designed, engineered, made and delivered.”
A partnership to foster innovation in 3D printing
Carbon and adidas will keep developing the new 3D printing material and machinery in order to come up with new innovation combining 3D printing and sports industry. As it is still new, the production details unfortunately still remain closed to the public, but we are looking forward to further information about this innovative collaboration.