Adidas Uses 3D Technology to Make Running Shoes

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Adidas, the German athletic shoe and clothing manufacturer, has turned to 3D technology to make part of a new line of running shoes. The company eventually will make 100,000 pairs, as it works to find means to stay ahead of major competitors, particularly Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE).

The shoes will be made in a partnership with Carbon 3D. The Silicon Valley–based 3D printer company was founded in 2014. It has 3D printing relationships with General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) already. The latter venture allows the creation of surgical tools.

The Carbon product that will be used to create the shoes is called “Digital Light Synthesis.” It allows a combination of light and oxygen to create the mid-sole of what Adidas calls its Futurecraft 4D. The product, Adidas said, has the benefit of 17 years of running research.

The two companies announced:

With the new technology, adidas now operates on a completely different manufacturing scale and sport performance quality, officially departing from 3D printing, bringing additive manufacturing in the sport industry into a new dimension.

They have targeted the release of more than 100,000 Futurecraft 4D pairs of running shows by mid-2018.

For Carbon, the partnership is one that will give the small start-up substantial exposure. It demonstrates, Carbon management said, that 3D technology can bring products to market quickly without a long cycle of engineering, design and manufacturing.

For the shoe maker, the product keeps it in step with advances made by Nike. Eric Liedtke, Adidas Group Executive Board Member Responsible for Global Brands, said:

With Digital Light Synthesis, we venture beyond limitations of the past, unlocking a new era in design and manufacturing. One driven by athlete data and agile manufacturing processes. By charting a new course for our industry, we can unleash our creativity – transforming not just what we make, but how we make it.

Nike has been testing new running shows with top-level marathon runners. The technology in the shoes has a “spring plate” in the sole. It is meant to make the power of each running step more efficient, which, Nike says, increases speed and saves the runner some degree of energy output.