Jan 18, 2018 | By David

As 3D printing starts to make some serious waves in the retail industry, global sportswear giant Adidas has been one of the companies most eager to take advantage of its potential. Following on from the German manufacturer’s recent successful collaboration with 3D printing innovator Carbon, one of its own Executive Board Members for Global Brands will be joining the board at the Silicon Valley-based company. Eric Lietdke oversaw the FUTURECRAFT 4D project, and his new role at Carbon shows the increasing commitment of Adidas to development of 3D printing technology.

According to Dr. Joseph DeSimone, Carbon’s CEO and Co-founder. “Eric is an experienced and respected leader, and his track record for driving creativity and innovation at Adidas makes him a valuable addition to the Board as we continue to deliver on Carbon’s growth strategy. Further, this month’s launch of FUTURECRAFT 4D is a testament to the deep and dynamic partnership between adidas and Carbon, and illustrates the power of true digital 3D manufacturing at scale and the infinite possibilities ahead.”

Lietdke has been at Adidas for over 15 years, holding various senior management positions in the areas of product marketing and brand communications at Adidas America. Since March 2014, he has been in charge of overseeing the Adidas and Reebok brands. “I am excited and honored to join the Carbon Board, and look forward to contributing to the company’s vision to fundamentally change how the world designs, engineers, makes and delivers customized products at scale”, he said in a statement about this new appointment.

Adidas has had a strategic partnership with Carbon since April 2017, and the FUTURECRAFT 4D project was the first major fruit borne by this cutting-edge collaboration. It saw Carbon’s proprietary Digital Light Synthesis additive manufacturing technology being used to develop new high-performance footwear.

Founded in 2014, Carbon’s principal goal as a company is to enable manufacturers to move beyond using 3D printing technology for rapid prototyping, adopting it also as an integral part of their final production processes. Its pioneering Digital Light Synthesis technology makes use of digital light projection, oxygen permeable optics, and programmable liquid resins.

Carbon’s cutting-edge SLA process projects a series of two-dimensional UV images on to a resin tank, curing selected areas of it, as the build platform gradually rises to provide the third dimension. Once the solid part is printed, it is baked in a high-circulation oven, which triggers a pre-engineered second phase of material transformation.

The result of this advanced process is the creation of high-resolution parts that have precise structures as well as excellent mechanical and material properties. The range of materials that are formed from Carbon’s specially developed resins include silicon-based ones that are bio-compatible, as well as special ceramics that are useful for advanced surgical techniques in the dental sector.

When working in collaboration with Adidas, Carbon’s technology was used to execute more than 50 different footwear design iterations, which is a substantial increase compared with what is usually achievable in the same amount of time with traditional molding processes. Engineeers from both companies also collaborated closely in the testing of nearly 150 different material iterations.

The final midsole was made out of a blend of UV curable resin and polyurethane, printed in a combination of different lattice structures to optimize performance. The shoes that were created could boast unprecedented levels of comfort as well as freedom of movement, with a total of around 20,000 struts being used to cushion the midsoles.

After almost a year of development and just as much hype, the FUTURECRAFT 4D range is finally being released on to the market this month. The sneakers will be on limited sale in New York, at a cost of around $300 a pair. The initial test run was around 5,000 pairs, and this year should see the production of hundreds of thousands of pairs, which is still relatively small-scale production for Adidas. Following this long-term proof-of-concept, next year could potentially see millions of pairs of 3D printed Adidas shoes available, at a more affordable price point for consumers.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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