Adidas is launching the Adidas 4DFWD, an athletic performance shoe that has a 3D printed midsole via a partnership with 3D printing company Carbon.
The two companies have combined athlete data and Carbon's Digital Light Synthesis technology to create a 4D lattice midsole that's geared toward propelling an athlete forward.
This midsole uses a bowtie shaped lattice designed to give runners a new experience. The shoe will be used by Olympic athletes and be available to consumers worldwide Aug. 12.
Phil DeSimone, chief product and business development officer at Carbon, said the collaboration with Adidas has been ongoing and that the 4DFWD highlights how 3D printing can scale. DeSimone said Carbon and Adidas believe the shoe will be the highest volume 3d printed product.
"This shoe was in development about 18 months with computational design tools and a heavy redo on the material side," explained DeSimone. "The next step will be more around custom products."
For Carbon, the Adidas partnership is a good way to garner attention to 3D printing and the promise of additive manufacturing. Adidas' 4D footwear is designed to fine tune midsoles for specific patterns of movement.
The lessons from the Adidas partnership can also be leverage in Carbon's broader business. For instance, performance foam and Carbon technologies are used in Riddell and CCM helmets in football and hockey, respectively.
"Adidas made a massive bet on us and pioneered additive in volume," said DeSimone. "3D printing is starting to branch out to other consumer products and the market for performance foam is massive. Body protection, sports, car seats, mattresses, clothing and aerospace can use our structures."
The Adidas shoe also highlights how data plays a big role. For instance, the lattice in the Adidas 4DFWD was identified through simulations out of 5 million possible structures. The midsole has been coded to compress forward with vertical impact.
According to Adidas, the 4DFWD was tested at the University of Calgary, which analyzed forward motion, braking force and running economy. A team in Germany and runners in the US also tested the shoe.
For Carbon, the 4DFWD launch is more than a shoe. the launch is a signal that 3D printing and additive is able to scale. "The technology is here and ready for prime time. Factories will have 100s of machines in them at scale," said DeSimone. "It's come a long way since Carbon started in a garage with chess pieces."