Adidas announced the Futurecraft 4D, its latest shoe based on state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, this time using Digital Light Synthesis technology created by Silicon Valley firm Carbon.
Digital Light Synthesis “uses digital light projection, oxygen-permeable optics and programmable liquid resins to generate high-performance, durable polymeric products,” according to Adidas. It essentially involves liquid being blasted with light to create 3-D items, a story in Engadget further stated.
About 5,000 pairs of the Futurecraft 4D shoe will be available by the end of this year at retail, though about 300 pairs will be sold in a controlled release to friends and family this month. By the end of 2018, Adidas plans to ramp up its manufacturing effort to produce more than 100,000 pairs.
In the span of several months, Adidas has turned 3D-printed shoes and new shoe manufacturing techniques into kind of a big deal. It seems like on a monthly basis, or even more frequently, the sportswear and footwear leader is announcing a new 3D-printed shoe or a test of custom, in-store 3D printing of sweaters or an imaginative pilot program in factory automation.
However, while garnering the brand a lot of headlines and kudos for its aggressive embrace of innovations, these efforts also have had the appearance of being small-scale, low-risk endeavors. Was Adidas really changing how the game was played, or just showing off a little? Unveiling Futurecraft 4D suggests that it might be ready to move on from parlor tricks to using advanced manufacturing techniques on a much larger scale.
Digital Light Synthesis technology sounds like it has the potential to help Adidas head in that direction, and while it's early in the commercialization of the technology, Adidas is now working with Carbon to integrate it into its automated Speedfactory concept. Part of the endgame for investing in innovative manufacturing capabilities is that these techniques are supposed to provide Adidas with better methods for making more customized, personalized shoes. Attaining the ideal fit is something highly prized among serious runners and athletes, so the investment and effort may prove worth it.
However, the jury is still out on that point. We haven't heard anything about how well Adidas' previous 3D-printed shoes sold, even in presumably limited availability. Now that Adidas is scaling up its state-of-the-art production, will it pay off with scaled up sales of these innovative shoes? We may began to learn the answer by the end of this year.