German shoemaker Adidas will begin mass-producing a shoe with a 3D-printed sole, the company announced today. The process will allow for more personalized shoes, shaped to an individual’s weight and gait.
“This is a milestone, not only for us as a company, but also for the industry,” Gerd Manz, Adidas’ head of technology, told Reuters. “We’ve cracked some of the boundaries.”
Adidas is partnering with the 3D-printing startup Carbon to make the printed soles. Carbon has been financed by General Electric and Alphabet’s Google division, as well as big venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital.
The shoe will be called “Futurecraft 4D.” Adidas hopes to sell 5,000 of them this year and as many as 100,000 next year. Carbon says it currently takes an hour and a half to print one of the soles, but it hopes to get that down to as little as 20 minutes per sole.
Other shoe companies, including Nike, Under Armour, and New Balance, have been experimenting with using 3D printing, but so far have only produced prototype shoes and soles tailored to sponsored athletes.
In an interview with Footwear News, Adidas Group Executive Board Member Eric Liedtke said Futurecraft shoes will be “as durable as we’ve ever done, if not more so.”
“The product is ultimately tunable,” Liedtke said. “The way it’s created from light and oxygen through software design, you could get down into the individual component cells and adjust the strength, durability, and the shape.”
If Adidas’ dream of selling a run of 100,000 Futurecraft shoes comes to fruition, it will be a major push of 3D-printing technology into the mass consumer market, something that’s been talked about for more than a year now. By way of comparison, Liedtke says Adidas sells 350 million pairs of standard shoes annually.