On Friday, Adidas launched an exciting new product for the mass produced shoe industry. This massive launch was for a 3D-printed sole shoe, which now plans to be mass produced next year. And while Adidas may have been the first, similar shoe companies are following and we expect that the next type of shoe to experience 3D printing are mens boots.
Adidas already lets people personalise the colour and pattern of shoes ordered online, but with their new 3D printing techniques, will now make small production runs, limited edition sneakers, as well as bottoms made to fit a person’s weight and shoe structure. Rivals such as Nike, Under Armour and New Balance also have been experimenting with 3D printing but have so far only used the method to create prototypes, soles tailored for sponsored athletes and a couple of high-priced novelty women’s sneakers. That is because traditional 3D printers are slower, more expensive and frequently make an inferior product compared to injection molds for plastic that are currently utilised to make hundreds of millions of shoes annually, mostly in Asia. But, Adidas says its new venture with Silicon Valley startup Carbon allows it to overcome lots of those difficulties to generate a sole that can rival one made by means of an injection mould, and at a speed and cost that allow for mass production. This mass production of shoe technology is such a highly anticipated event for shoemakers alike, creating a new means to the mass production of men’s and women’s shoes.
Carbon, a company funded by venture firms such as Sequoia Capital, in addition to funds set up by General Electric, and Alphabet’s Google, has pioneered a new technologic method that prints with light-sensitive plastic resin that is then baked for strength. Conventional 3D printers build up products with layers of plastic powder, a method employed by Hewlett Packard that is working with Nike and states its newest machines operate 10 times faster and at half the price than earlier versions. With the advancement in mass shoe production technology, Adidas expects to sell 5,000 pairs of its own “Futurecraft 4D” this year, and 100,000 next year since Carbon cuts the time needed to print a sole in the present hour and a half to as low as 20 minutes per sole. The shoes will sell at an unspecified premium cost but Adidas plans to decrease the price as the technology grows with the product. And to think that late last year, without this technology, Adidas sold a few hundred pairs of running shoes with soles made by routine 3D printing for $333, but, they were comparatively rigid and heavy and required 10 hours to print.
Carbon’s technology will allow Adidas to make little batches of shoes a lot more quickly making it time and cost efficient. Yet, smaller production runs were not very cheap before, as the metal moulds for most soles take four to six weeks to throw and grind, making it an expensive means to shoe making. Adidas originally planned batches of sneakers tailored to specific cities or sports but expects consumers will eventually be quantified and tested in shops to style perfectly fitting shoes substituted to get an individual’s gait, weight, and type of sport.
Mass producing this type of shoe is not only exciting for the company, but also the buyer as they can now buy shoes online that are 3D printed and are perfectly fitted to each individual foot.
3D printing will also help reduce the time it takes to find new designs to shops from the 12 to 18 months it usually takes for sneakers. This exciting, new mass produced shoe is only the start for major companies world wide, as technology is advancing, so will the mass produced shoe.