Sportswear brands have been looking into the possibility of 3D printing high-performance footwear. Adidas set up a partnership with California-based 3D printing company Carbon to create the Futurecraft 4D footwear. The sportswear brand says it used years of running data to design the new midsole. This was made possible with a digital footwear component creation process that removes the need for traditional prototyping or molding. The method uses Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) process, which creates high-performance durable polymeric products. Nike has also started printing uppers as well, which were even used in this years’ London Marathon. These uppers are made using solid deposit modeling. Using this way the filament is unwound from a coil, melted, and then laid down in layers. Nike claims 3D printing allows prototypes to be created 16 times faster than other production methods.
3D fabrics are more dynamic than traditionally woven fabrics because the warp and weft fibers are connected. New Balance signed a deal back in 2017 with its Boston neighbor Formlabs to implement 3D printing on a larger scale. The companies are developing footwear materials that will be able to improve athlete’s performance. Once 3D printed soles and uppers have been created they still have to be bonded together. This is the most challenging part of 3D printed shoes, but the company is working on a method to apply adhesives to the outsole or upper via a digital printing process. Atom Lab used a variation of the fused fabrication to melt adhesive to join the sole and upper. When the open time is long enough, prior heat activation is not necessary, which saves some process steps. Much of this 3D printed shoe technology is new, but 3DShoes.com will continue to stick to it.
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