3D printing has penetrated various sectors including automobile, medical, aerospace, and others. Manufacturers have been finding innovative ways to reduce production cost and speed up the manufacturing process. 3D printing has become one of the best options for them. Technological advancements have enabled manufacturers to find new ways to develop their products. Manufacturers have been conducting trials to determine efficacy of 3D printed materials in their products. From manufacturing spare parts of vehicles to manufacturing organs of human body, 3D printing has made great strides in the world. It has been utilized in manufacturing customized shoes. 3D printed sneakers with soles manufactured based on biometrics of individual runner have become a possibility.
Carbon, the 3D printing company situated at Bay Area has collaborated with a sports apparel company Adidas to develop customized 3D printed shoes. They collaborated develops materials, designs, and shock-absorbing parts of midsoles. The Herzogenaurach-based sports apparel company Adidas has decided to manufacture millions of midsoles by 2018. Carbon claimed that this will be the largest production of a 3D printed product so far. First few products will not be tailor-made, but Adidas would deploy Carbon printers at distribution centers to provide customized shoes for local consumers.
Carbon was founded by chemical engineer Joseph DeSimone in 2013. The aim behind founding this company was to commercialize his research on rapid 3D printing using high performance polymers. Mr. DeSimone outlined that first few models will not be customized, but those shoes will have multilayers, shock-absorbing structure, which is impossible to manufacture with the help of injection molding. The model is honeycomb structured with different levels of stiffness at the heel.
“Mechanical engineers have been taunting the world with the properties of these structures for years,” said DeSimone. “You can’t injection-mold something like that, because each strut is an individual piece.”
Julia Greer, a Caltech material scientist has been studying impacts of micro- and nanoscale structures on the properties of materials. He said honeycomb geometrics offer exceptional durability and shock absorption capabilities. This structure deforms only on the point of stress. When runner’s heel strikes midsole, the shoe compresses toward ground and absorbs the stress. It does not protrude on the sides.
It takes nearly 90 minutes to manufacture a single sole. Carbon has collaborated with Adidas to construct machinery that can reduce this production time up to 20 minutes. Moreover, Carbon focused its efforts on chemical engineering of polymers. The firm has developed a printable elastomer with correct mechanical characteristics and colors of the shoe.
The Futurecraft sneakers of Adidas went up for sale last month. The magic of sneakers lies in midsoles, which have nearly 20,000 struts to bring extra comfort and cushion. This sneaker marks a significant leap in 3D printing application in manufacturing shoes. The large-scale production will offer sneakers to millions of customers. Other sneaker manufacturing companies would also gear up to develop their own range of sneakers to compete against Adidas.