These recent years, Adidas’ stances in favour of a movement born from the use of new technologies have been both numerous and surprising. This bet has seen the brand collaborating with tech companies from time to time, in order to create pieces inspired by data from athletes, tailor-made for them. These commitments, destined to make the brand one of the most prominent when it comes to conceive innovative development methods, contributed to give the german manufacturer an undeniable legitimacy. With the creation of the future craft 4D, the brand with the 3 stripes aims at revolutionise product conception, with help from the molecular science field, through its collaboration with the californien tech company CARBON, creator of the 3D Digital Light Synthesis impression method.
« When trying to rethink the process, we were intrigued and inspired by the idea of T1000 rising up from a puddle in the Hollywood movie Terminator II. And that’s essentially what we have done. We’ve made that a reality with Digital Light Synthesis. » explained Dr. DeSimone, co-founder and CEO at GamePlan A.
Inspired by Terminator II, CARBON has developed a production method that will make Adidas able to reinvent the conception and manufacturing of sneakers, based on athletes datas, thanks to what they baptised the Digital Light Synthesis. A process, which reminds us of Stereolithography – or SLA – of its competitor Prodways, that resorts to light projection and oxygen permeable optics in order to shape liquid resins into the desired products. This technic could, in the long run, lead to the development of high-performance shoes entirely personalised for a large group of athletes, or cohorts of mainstream consumers. To achieve this, Adidas expects the DLS method to provoke a big change, allowing it to surpass actual shortcomings that limits similar modern fabrication processes: an agile production, plus at high scale. Through the use of light and oxygen, it might become able to produce anything in a really short length of time.
Together, the duet hopes to spread the actual dimension of the sport shoe manufacturing industry, hoping that this innovative process allows them to make every shoe resin perfectly fit any user’s personal sole shape. Contrarily to traditional forms of production, the DLS can render Adidas able to dress any of its customer’s specific needs, be they related to movement, cushioning, stability or comfort with the help of a single component.
Beyond the competitive advantages of 3D printing, let’s recall that they enable the brand to realize a once unconceivable prowess : the soles conceived thanks to this process incorporate a multilayer structure that would be simply impossible to obtain using injection moulding. Thus, Adidas confirms its long-term goal of making 3-D printing one of its priorities, engaging itself a bit more in the shift that already offers retailers the possibility to develop pieces that directly answer its customer’s most singular needs.
« Despite the influence of technology to improve almost every other aspect of our lives, for years the manufacturing process has followed the same four steps that make up the product development cycle – design, prototype, tool, produce. CARBON has changed that; we’ve broken the cycle and are making it possible to go directly from design to production. » tells Dr. DeSimone.
Meanwhile, Adidas prepares itself to release 300 pairs of its future craft 4D, followed by a further 5000 additional pairs which won’t be individually tailored but based on running data from adidas’ extensive library. Later on, the DLS should be integrated to Adidas’ Speedfactory, which would probably enable on-demand sneaker production.
The path drawn by the german label illustrates a futur where production gets more and more influenced by technological, creative and collaborative innovation, in close partnership with athletes. Through its many actions, we can envision the manufacturing revolution evolve at a surprising pace. A possibility that’s getting more and more precise by the brand’s bet on automation in order to accelerate its production process. Next Step ? Testing the limits of automation, which would enable it to have the desired results on the shoe supply chain. To this date, on the 120 steps necessary to develop an Adidas sneaker pair, the biggest challenge remains to create a robot that laces the shoe…
“The biggest challenge the shoe industry has is how do you create a robot that puts the lace into the shoe,” he said. “I’m not kidding. That’s a complete manual process today. There is no technology for that.” Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted.
Yeah. Like. Really. So here’s an area where robots can’t match the incredible human mind. Well, at least for the next 10 years…