An additional dimension

Created with light and oxygen – Adidas is bringing the Futurecraft 4D onto the market

Adidas has overtaken itself in the field of additive manufacturing. It was not very long ago that the sports goods group from Herzogenaurach introduced the Futurecraft 3D, but the sneakers, manufactured in a 3D printing process, have already been consigned to the past. The future belongs to 4D printing, in other words, structures produced additively (by means of 3D printing, for example) that change as a result of factors such as temperature, moisture and light. Adidas is relying here on digital light synthesis, whereby programmable liquid resins are cast into midsoles for personalised, high-performance shoes, using digital light projection and oxygen. Adidas developed the revolutionary process in cooperation with the technology company Carbon, based in Silicon Valley. The result is the Futurecraft 4D, the first product in the world to be created with light and oxygen.

"New technologies have already led to improvements in almost all aspects of our life. However, since time immemorial, the manufacturing process has followed the same four steps that make up the product development process – design, prototype, implementation and production. Carbon has changed this; we have interrupted the cycle and created the direct route from design to production. We enable engineers and designers to develop designs that were unworkable before and we make it possible for companies to develop their products ranges further. Futurecraft 4D is proof of that", says Carbon’s CEO Dr Joseph DeSimone, explaining the advantages of the innovative procedure. Digital light synthesis is set to become an integral part of the Adidas Speedfactory – a production unit that manufactures for consumers, irrespective of time and place, tailor-made products based on individual physiological data. With this, Adidas is revolutionising the conventional manufacturing process in the textile and clothing sector; locally produced personalised products are becoming suitable for mass markets.

The question remains: 'why 4D instead of 3D?'. According to Adidas, 3D printing has shortcomings: a low production speed and scale, poor surface quality, and colour and material limitations. 4D printing by digital light synthesis appears to solve these problems. As early as this autumn, the first Futurecraft 4D shoes are expected to be coming onto the market. It is anticipated that 100,000 pairs will be produced by the end of 2018.

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