WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
3D printing will usher in a new era of on demand, personalised clothing that will revolutionise products, supply chains, and companies.
Adidas, who recently made a sneaker from recycled ocean plastic, and other clothing manufacturers have been experimenting with new ways to manufacture their goods for decades, but it is only in the past couple of years that they’ve started to get their heads around using 3D printing to replace yesterday’s manufacturing techniques.
3D printing is an incredibly promising and alluring manufacturing technology so it’s no surprise Adidas have been driving into the space hard – that’s not a golf analogy by the way.
Not only will 3D printing help companies collapse supply chains, and reduce their inventories to zero by letting them manufacture new goods on demand, but it will also help them decrease costs, and dramatically increase the amount of personalisation that they offer to customers.
Is that a quintuple slam dunk I’m seeing!? You’re darn right it is.
Realising the promise of the technology though, as with any emerging technology, has been slow – by todays standards at least – as companies try and try again, but now Adidas has teamed up with a San Francisco start up to tackle their most ambitious project to date – to create a mass market, 3D printed sneaker. And that’s a first. Even Under Armour’s AI designed, 3D printed sneaker the Architect only had a production run of 300, and Adidas want 3to produce at least a 100,000 pairs of what they’re calling their new FutureCraft 4D line.
Take that Under Armour, you’ve just been served – and I’m not talking Tennis. Oh yes, keep those sports analogies coming… I know you love them…
The mid-sole of the FutureCraft 4D is going to be created using a 3D printing process known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) where the design is essentially pulled out of a vat of liquid polymer resin and fixed into its desired shape using ultraviolet light.
The company behind CLIP, Carbon, who are backed by industry giants GE and Google, say the new technique is faster and more adaptable than traditional 3D printing, and it’s those traits that Adidas is banking on to help them realise their ambitions. Carbon also claim the final materials are more robust and flexible than traditional injection moulded plastics.
Initially Adidas are going to make 5,000 pairs which will go on sale later this year with the aim to produce 100,000 by the end of 2018.
It’s a marathon not a sprint…
“This is a milestone not only for us as a company but also for the industry,” said Adidas’ Gerd Manz, “we’ve cracked some of the boundaries.”
Another advantage of 3D printing is that it also allows companies to make smaller batches – something that in the past would have been prohibitively expensive. For example, these could be small runs that are tailored for particular events or locations, or they could even be expensive one offs moulded to suit an individual’s foot shape and gait.
“Individualisation will come, but you’ve got to learn to walk before you run,” said Manz.
The cost of a pair of FutureCraft 4Ds is not yet known, but Adidas says it will be in the premium price range. Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair, but ironically I’ll have to – now, if only we could find a way to collapse time… and, yes, I’ll admit it I need a new puns machine too.