Custom-made sports footwear is typically the preserve of professional athletes, but perhaps not for much longer. Adidas has unveiled a 3D-printed running shoe midsole concept that it hopes to make publicly available. Futurecraft 3D would be molded to the wearer's foot shape, for improved performance.
Some companies, such as Sols, are already offering custom-made 3D-printed insoles, aimed at helping to improve comfort for the wearer. For a firm on the scale of Adidas to begin offering such a service, though, would be major milestone in the popularization of the technology.
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The Futurecraft 3D midsole was developed in partnership with 3D printing specialist Materialise. It is designed to provide the cushioning needs of the wearer, matching contours and pressure points of each individual foot. Adidas describes it as a "flexible, fully breathable carbon-copy of the athlete’s own footprint."
Gizmag has requested some additional info from Adidas on the specific materials and processes used to create the Futurecraft 3D, but has yet to receive a response. The sportswear manufacturer does say in a press release, however, that its ultimate aim for the technology is for customers to be able to walk into a store, spend a short time running on a treadmill, then leave the store with a 3D-printed running shoe.
The Futurecraft 3D midsole was designed as part of Adidas's Futurecraft initiative, which the firm says is aimed at innovating across all areas of production through open source collaboration and craftsmanship. It says more innovative partnerships of this ilk will be announced over the next six months.
The video below provides an introduction to the Futurecraft 3D prototype.
Update October 9: Adidas tells Gizmag that the midsoles are printed from a material called Modified Desmopan TPU, which is provided by Bayer. The raw material is ground and supplied to Materialise for 3D printing. Once the mid sole is printed, it is assembled with the upper portion of the shoe at the Adidas production center in Scheinfeld, Germany.