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May 2017: A 3D Printing Update

Every month the world of 3D printing is always full of surprises.  Which industries will this disruptive technology turn on their heads?  What new and exciting applications for this world breaker are out there – just waiting to be discovered and played around with?

Well, at least this month, these questions can begin to get answered with Adidas, the world-famous shoe manufacturer.

Tech Crunch reports on yet another game-changer in the footwear industry.  For the first time, Adidas has announced the launch of a mass-produced 3D printed shoe.

The Futurecraft 4D shoe “is a huge improvement on [Adidas’s] last 3D printed runners, which were more of a concept than an actual product.  The new version is better suited for mass production – Adidas plans on selling 5,000 pairs this…fall, which will scale up to more than 100,000 pairs by the end of 2018.  While the company hasn’t announced the price, expect the first run to still be priced as a limited-edition shoe.”

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Adidas’s announcement is its choice of partner, Carbon 3D.  We here at Replicator World have extensively covered Carbon 3D, which is a “Silicon Valley-based 3D printing company…[which has] raised over $200M from Sequoia Capital, GV, Yuri Milner and others.  [Carbon 3D] is focused on making 3D printing a viable manufacturing method for large-scale production across industries.”

“Using a method called Digital Light Synthesis, [Carbon 3D] is able to print objects up to 10 times faster than other 3D printers.  The difference is that instead of printing an object layer by layer from the top down like traditional additive 3D printers do, Carbon’s process is continuous and starts from the bottom.”

Carbon 3D’s 3D printers “use digital light below the printing surface to turn the liquid resin into a solid object.  The object, in this case the shoe’s midsoles, are pulled up and literally formed from the top down…after the midsole is printed it’s attached to the top of the shoe, which is made from fabric using traditional manufacturing methods.”

Not only are Futurecraft 4Ds faster to manufacture, they also provide Adidas with the ability to become more flexible, unlocking “performance-enhancing design modifications that would have been impossible with other materials like foam.”

“While the first step is just to get to mass-production, Adidas eventually sees a future where everyone will be able to have their own 3D printed shoe, with the midsole totally customized to their individual needs.”

Elsewhere in the wide world of 3D printing, 3DPrint tells of an exciting new exhibit set to open in New York City.  “More than 600 artists from around the world have joined forces to build Gulliver’s Gate, a tiny, partially 3D printed world consisting of 300 cities all fitting together in a 4,900-square foot space.”  (As the above video states – that’s about the size of a standard football field!

While much of these worlds were brought to life via traditional manufacturing and artistic techniques – much of them were 3D printed!  “The project was conceived by Michael Langer, a native New Yorker, and Eiran Gazit, an Israeli who launched a similar project in 2002 called Mini-Israel.  Mini-Israel was a bit larger than Gulliver’s Gate; the project was installed in a 14-acre park and contained scale models of various sites in Israel.”

“When Langer and Gazit met, they decided to collaborate on a project that was both bigger and smaller.  The buildings, people, and natural landscapes of Gulliver’s Gate are built at a 1:87 scale, meaning a six-foot-tall person would be reduced to 0.8 inches high.”  In fact, visitors to this magical exhibit will be afforded the opportunity to have their likeness 3D scanned then 3D printed and inserted into these cityscapes in miniature.

Of course, not every region is represented in Gulliver’s Gate – but quite a few are – such as New York City herself, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Russia, Europe, and a few fantastical cities thrown in for good measure.

Speaking of small worlds ‘after all’, 3Ders writes of a brand-new patent Disney has just filed.  The patent, for “3D printed ‘soft body robots’…is suitable for ‘physical interaction with humans.’  The patent says that Disney has already built a small, human-like prototype based on a popular Disney character.”

If the diagram above is to be believed, we here at Replication World can surmise the robot apocalypse will either be ushered in by something resembling Baymax, the medical robot from Disney’s underappreciated hit Big Hero 6 or from Winnie the Pooh himself.

Of course, many living in the United States (or even beyond) will be familiar with Disney’s famous costumed characters wandering around their myriad parks.  Some will have even wondered what secrets and darkness lies in their hearts, beyond the laughter of children and the ever-present sunlight.  Well, you won’t have to wonder for much longer, because those costumed actors will soon be replaced!

These robots will have the ability to “interact with children, giving out human-like hugs and greetings in crowds.  The patent hints at a plan to introduce humanoid robots at Disney Theme parks, as it strongly emphasizes the importance of a child’s safety.  ‘To physically interact with children, the inventors understood that the robot should be soft and durable,’ the patent states.”

“Although the patent suggests several ways in which the robot could be built, there is a strong focus on the 3D printing technologies that could be used to produce various components.  Links, joints, bearings, and body segments could all be 3D printed, says the patent, while a Stratasys Objet260 Connex multi-material 3D printer has already been used to 3D print a prototype [a ‘toy-sized’] soft robot.”

“Disney’s soft robots would…be partially filled with air.  With the inclusion of various sensors, this would allow the robots to react to pressure, giving natural-feeling ‘hugs’ to humans, as well as giving them the ability to perform other actions.  While these motions could eventually be carried out autonomously, the patent mentions that a ‘controller’ would initially handle the task: ‘During operations, the robot controller operates the joint based on the pressure sensed by the pressure sensor,’ it says.”

At least Disney has been courteous by informing us the end is, apparently, 3D printed, offering hugs, and most definitely – nigh!

What better way to escape Disney’s new 3D printed bots than in a brand-new 3D printed Formula One car?

Last month, when McLaren Racing went to the Bahrain Grand Prix, they brought with them “something the motorsport [had never] seen trackside: a 3D printer.”

Engadget reports “the Formula One team has confirmed that as an expansion of its partnership with 3D printing specialists Stratasys, it [has raced] with print ‘race-ready’ parts for the new McLaren MCL32 car in order to quickly integrate design modifications and reduce its weight.”

“The parts included carbon fiber reinforced nylon material hydraulic line brackets, rubber-like flexible radio cables, brake cooling ducts, and rear wing flaps, which help increase the rear downforce on the car during high speeds.”

As has been the case in a myriad of other industries, “3D printing has reduced manufacturing time from weeks to days or even hours, which helps the team during testing and when readying its cars for race days.”

As Neil Oatley, McLaren Racing’s Design and Development Director explains, “we are consistently modifying and improving our Formula One car designs, so the ability to test new designs quickly is critical to making the car lighter and more importantly increasing the number of tangible iterations in improved car performance.  If we can bring new developments to the car one race earlier – going from new idea to new part in only a few days – this will be a key factor in making the McLaren MCL32 more competitive.”

As for the actual 3D printer McLaren racing used: it was Stratasys’s uPrint SE Plus.  On top of this, “McLaren Racing [also] employs more complex machinery at the McLaren Applied Technologies headquarters in Woking, England.  Both fused deposition modelling (FDM) and PolyJet printing technologies are being used for prototyping new car models, production tooling, and development of custom parts, which McLaren hopes will translate to faster race times on the track.”

With all these new 3D printed marvels pumping into the stratosphere (and beyond) – stay tuned next month right here at Replicator World for even more earth (and industry) shattering marvels.

Image Courtesy of Tech Crunch, Adidas, Carbon 3D, Gulliver’s Gate, 3DPrint, Disney, 3Ders, and Engadget

Quotes Courtesy of Tech Crunch

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3D Printed ‘Smart’ Bandages

BBC News reports on the latest medical advancement coming out of Swansea University in Wales.  Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science (ILS) has developed medical bandages “which can detect how a wound is healing and send messages back to doctors.”

These bandages, which will be partially 3D printed, will “use real-time 5G technology to monitor what treatment is needed and also keep track of a patient’s activity levels.”  This way, medical help could be tailored to each patient’s individual healthcare needs.

“Experts in nanotechnology would develop the tiny sensors [within these bandages] while 3D printers at ILS would be used to produce the bandages, which would bring down the cost.”

As ILS’s Chairman Professor Marc Clement explains: “Traditional medicine may be where a clinician might see a patient and then prescribe the treatment approach for a month or three months.  What the future holds is a world where there’s the ability to vary the treatment to the individual, the lifestyle, and the pattern of life.”

“Sometimes we revere doctors so much…we tell them all is well but all of the evidence is there before them in this 5G world, so the clinician and patient can work together to address the challenge…what we’re creating…is an ecosystem [capable of proving] concept, [proving] business, [manufacturing] locally, and [taking] innovation to a global marketplace.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of BBC News

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Formfutura Announces StoneFil Filament

3D Print has a new report out concerning an announcement by 3D printing materials manufacturer Formfutura.  Formfutura, based in the Netherlands, has only recently partnered with 3D printer manufacturer CEL Robox, ostensibly so “Robox could sell Formfutura’s engineering-grade TitanX material.”

Now, however, Formfutura has announced a brand new “stone-filled, PLA-based filament, appropriately named StoneFil.  Formfutura’s new StoneFil is based on its easy-to-print, modified EasyFil PLA compound.  There are four StoneFil options: terracotta, pottery clay, granite, and concrete, and the company says the material is ‘gravimetrically filled with 50%…powdered stone.”

This StoneFil Filament “has a higher than normal material density: up to 37% more than regular PLA materials…all objects printed using this filament come off the print bed with a matte, but rough, stone-like finish, featuring natural gradient color linings, so each and every print has its own unique chromatic spectrum and color shading.”

Formfutura is quick to point out that “StoneFil is an abrasive material…Formfutura has listed some general printing guidelines for [printing using this new material], and noted these settings are only meant as a form of guidance, to help users find their own optimal print settings.”

“These ranges in settings should work for most printers, but please do feel free to experiment outside these ranges if you think it is suitable for your printer.  There are a lot of different types of printers, hot-ends, and printer offsets that it is extremely difficult to give an overall one-size-fits-all setting.”

“StoneFil is manufactured with FDA-compliant polymers, and meets the requirements for use in Food Contact Articles…the filament is now available for purchase, and comes in both a 50-gram coil and a 0.5 kg spool, both of which are available in 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm sizes.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Formfutura and 3D Print

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Disney Ushers in The Dawn of The Robot Apocalypse with The Help of 3D Printing!

3Ders writes of a brand-new patent Disney has just filed.  The patent, for “3D printed ‘soft body robots’…is suitable for ‘physical interaction with humans.’  The patent says that Disney has already built a small, human-like prototype based on a popular Disney character.”

If the diagram above is to be believed, we here at Replication World can surmise the robot apocalypse will either be ushered in by something resembling Baymax, the medical robot from Disney’s underappreciated hit Big Hero 6 or from Winnie the Pooh himself.

Of course, many living in the United States (or even beyond) will be familiar with Disney’s famous costumed characters wandering around their myriad parks.  Some will have even wondered what secrets and darkness lies in their hearts, beyond the laughter of children and the ever-present sunlight.  Well, you won’t have to wonder for much longer, because those costumed actors will soon be replaced!

These robots will have the ability to “interact with children, giving out human-like hugs and greetings in crowds.  The patent hints at a plan to introduce humanoid robots at Disney Theme parks, as it strongly emphasizes the importance of a child’s safety.  ‘To physically interact with children, the inventors understood that the robot should be soft and durable,’ the patent states.”

“Although the patent suggests several ways in which the robot could be built, there is a strong focus on the 3D printing technologies that could be used to produce various components.  Links, joints, bearings, and body segments could all be 3D printed, says the patent, while a Stratasys Objet260 Connex multi-material 3D printer has already been used to 3D print a prototype [a ‘toy-sized’] soft robot.”

“Disney’s soft robots would…be partially filled with air.  With the inclusion of various sensors, this would allow the robots to react to pressure, giving natural-feeling ‘hugs’ to humans, as well as giving them the ability to perform other actions.  While these motions could eventually be carried out autonomously, the patent mentions that a ‘controller’ would initially handle the task: ‘During operations, the robot controller operates the joint based on the pressure sensed by the pressure sensor,’ it says.”

At least Disney has been courteous by informing us the end is, apparently, 3D printed, offering hugs, and most definitely – nigh!

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Disney and 3Ders

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Siemens Tests 3D Printed Gas Turbine Blades

Power Engineering reports on a recent additive manufacturing-related breakthrough by Siemens.  “Siemens announced it has successfully tested power generation gas turbine blades produced entirely through metal-based 3D printing.”

Siemens tested these 3D printed gas turbine blades at an Industrial Gas Turbine Factory “in Lincoln, UK using a Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine.”  The blades were “tested under full-load engine conditions at 13,000 revolutions per minute and [in] temperatures above 1,250 degrees Celsius.”

These blades were developed by Siemens’ subsidiary Materials Solutions.  “Siemens purchased Materials Solutions, which specializes in high-performance parts for high temperature applications in turbomachinery, last year.”

In order to create these 3D printed gas turbine blades, Siemens and Materials Solutions printed them “from the powder of a polycrystalline nickel superalloy…[they were] designed with a cooling internal geometry to increase [their] overall efficiency.”

“No commercial production date was given for the 3D printed turbine blades, [although] 3D printing reduced the lead time for prototype development by 90%.”

As Willi Meixner, who heads Siemens’ Power and Gas Division explains, “this is a breakthrough success for the use of additive manufacturing in the power generation field, which is one of the most challenging applications for [additive manufacturing] technology.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Power Engineering and Siemens

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McLaren’s F1 Team 3D Prints Parts Trackside

Last month, when McLaren Racing went to the Bahrain Grand Prix, they brought with them “something the motorsport [had never] seen trackside: a 3D printer.”

Engadget reports “the Formula One team has confirmed that as an expansion of its partnership with 3D printing specialists Stratasys, it [has raced] with print ‘race-ready’ parts for the new McLaren MCL32 car in order to quickly integrate design modifications and reduce its weight.”

“The parts included carbon fiber reinforced nylon material hydraulic line brackets, rubber-like flexible radio cables, brake cooling ducts, and rear wing flaps, which help increase the rear downforce on the car during high speeds.”

As has been the case in a myriad of other industries, “3D printing has reduced manufacturing time from weeks to days or even hours, which helps the team during testing and when readying its cars for race days.”

As Neil Oatley, McLaren Racing’s Design and Development Director explains, “we are consistently modifying and improving our Formula One car designs, so the ability to test new designs quickly is critical to making the car lighter and more importantly increasing the number of tangible iterations in improved car performance.  If we can bring new developments to the car one race earlier – going from new idea to new part in only a few days – this will be a key factor in making the McLaren MCL32 more competitive.”

As for the actual 3D printer McLaren racing used: it was Stratasys’s uPrint SE Plus.  On top of this, “McLaren Racing [also] employs more complex machinery at the McLaren Applied Technologies headquarters in Woking, England.  Both fused deposition modelling (FDM) and PolyJet printing technologies are being used for prototyping new car models, production tooling, and development of custom parts, which McLaren hopes will translate to faster race times on the track.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Engadget

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University of Michigan Surgeons Trained Using 3D Printed Body Parts

The Engineer reports on a new program at the University of Michigan.  This program was investigated by a team of researchers, whose findings have just been published in the journal Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

“The researchers examined the effectiveness of a physical simulator exercise using a 3D printed costal cartilage grafting tool, with most participants highly rating its realism.”

In other words, trainee surgeons at Michigan Medicine used 3D printed body parts in order to practice “for complicated procedures such as airway and ear reconstruction for children.  Reconstructive cartilage grafting is a technique usually performed by advanced surgeons, making training a challenge.”

“In the past, skills have been acquired on live patients, anaesthetized animals, or human cadavers, but the medical community is looking increasingly to 3D printing to help simulate surgery.”

As Dr. David Zopf, the article’s senior author and a pediatric head and neck surgeon at CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan explains, “3D printing is bringing a whole new meaning to hands-on experience for surgeons in training.  Hands-on experience is critical for acquiring and improving surgical skills, especially of new and complex procedures.  This is an exciting tool that not only offers trainees exposure to opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have, but also allows them to demonstrate proficiency of skills before being performed on children.”  In order to ascertain these results, the team organized “eighteen surgical trainees from Michigan [to participate in the exercise.]”

One of these trainees, Cher Zhao, concluded: “you only get one chance to carve a harvested graft from a patient’s rib, so you have to do it perfectly the first time.  It takes years of practice to learn the technical skills to do it.  This was a very realistic experience and what’s great is you can keep printing dozens of these models at a time so you can practice over and over again.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Engineer and Michigan Medical

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Martian Colonists Could 3D Print Tools from Red Planet’s Dust

Live Science discovered a recent article in the journal Scientific Reports written by a team of researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois.  These scientists have developed a new method of 3D printing which may, in the future, allow Martian colonists to print tools using that red planet’s dust.

The team’s simulation suggests “Martian and Lunar dust [could be used] to 3D print flexible, tough rubber tools.”  These Martian explorers could even use this innovative 3D printing technique in order to create temporary housing.

As Ramille Shah, a Materials Scientist at Northwestern University explains, “for places like other planets and moons, where resources are limited, people would need to use what is available on that planet in order to live.  Our 3D paints really open up the ability to print different functional or structural objects to make habitats beyond Earth.”

“The researchers used simulated dusts based on real Lunar and Martian samples.  The synthetic dust contains mixtures of aluminum oxide, silicon dioxide, iron oxide, and other compounds… the team developed a process that combines simulated Lunar and Martian dust with solvents and a biopolymer to create these extraterrestrial inks.  The inks were then 3D printed into different shapes using an extruder.”

“In the end, the objects – which were composed of about 90 percent dust – were tough and flexible, and could withstand the rolling, cutting, and folding needed to print almost any 3D shape.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Live Science

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3D Printing Lilliput

3DPrint tells of an exciting new exhibit set to open in New York City.  “More than 600 artists from around the world have joined forces to build Gulliver’s Gate, a tiny, partially 3D printed world consisting of 300 cities all fitting together in a 4,900-square foot space.”  (As the above video states – that’s about the size of a standard football field!

While much of these worlds were brought to life via traditional manufacturing and artistic techniques – much of them were 3D printed!  “The project was conceived by Michael Langer, a native New Yorker, and Eiran Gazit, an Israeli who launched a similar project in 2002 called Mini-Israel.  Mini-Israel was a bit larger than Gulliver’s Gate; the project was installed in a 14-acre park and contained scale models of various sites in Israel.”

“When Langer and Gazit met, they decided to collaborate on a project that was both bigger and smaller.  The buildings, people, and natural landscapes of Gulliver’s Gate are built at a 1:87 scale, meaning a six-foot-tall person would be reduced to 0.8 inches high.”  In fact, visitors to this magical exhibit will be afforded the opportunity to have their likeness 3D scanned then 3D printed and inserted into these cityscapes in miniature.

Of course, not every region is represented in Gulliver’s Gate – but quite a few are – such as New York City herself, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Russia, Europe, and a few fantastical cities thrown in for good measure.

Image, Video, and Quotes Courtesy of Gulliver’s Gate and 3DPrint

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First 3D Printed Structural Airplane Components Approved by FAA

The Verge reports on some good news for Boeing, one of the largest manufacturers of airplanes and airplane parts in the world.  Boeing has begun “using 3D printed titanium parts in the construction of its 787 Dreamliner jet airliner.  These are the first 3D printed structural components to be approved by the Federal Aviation Authority.”  

Additionally, according to Norsk Titanium, the manufacturers of these parts, this means Boeing could now save up to $3 million in construction costs on each airplane built.  “These cost savings are important for Boeing, which lost money on each 787 built until last year.  This is quite normal for commercial jet programs, which sink a lot of money into initial research and engineering, before trimming expenses by making the manufacturing process more efficient.”

Beyond this, “the 787 is particularly worrying cost-wise due to its extensive use of titanium.  This metal alloy is strong, lightweight, and helps to keep the plane fuel efficient, but costs seven times more than aluminum, which is commonly used in commercial jets.”

This is why 3D printing is such a breath of fresh air for the industry.  Norsk Aluminum “has developed its own technology for creating titanium parts, using a technique named Rapid Plasma Deposition or RPD, in which titanium wire is melted in a cloud of argon gas to create each part.  This process cuts down on both raw material costs and energy usage compared to traditional forging and machining…making each jet cheaper to build.”

Norsk Aluminum plans to get its “entire manufacturing process approved [by the FAA within the next year], rather than each individual part, allowing it to produce even more parts for Boeing and other firms.  This will ‘open up the floodgates’ for 3D printed titanium in commercial jets.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Verge

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4D Printing Shape-Shifting Objects

Azo Materials caught wind of a brand-new article published in the journal Science Advances.  This article, written by researchers from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Georgia Institute of Technology, details the development of a new 4D printing process.

4D printing is “the process of integration of 3D printing and active material technologies in order to create structures [capable of changing] conformations/shapes with an environmental stimulus such as heat or moisture.”

“Active polymers, such as hydrogels and shape memory polymers (SMPs), are two of the most widely used active polymers in 4D printing.  In the hydrogel-based 4D prints, a non-swelling polymer is integrated with the hydrogel.  The hydrogel swells when the 4D print is immersed in a solvent, creating mismatch strains between the hydrogel and the non-swelling polymer that causes an overall change in the shape of the 4D structure.”

In order to simplify the often slow and complicated process involved in 4D printing with SMPs, the teams at SUTD and Georgia Institute of Technology “used a composite consisting of a glassy shape memory polymer and an elastomer, that is programmed with a built-in compressive strain.  They then integrated the programming steps into the 3D printing process by controlling the photopolymerization step during printing.”

As a result, the teams’ “4D structures have complex geometric forms at a high spatial resolution, while also exhibiting a high-fidelity feature with controlled built-in strains…this new permanent shape can also be reprogrammed into multiple subsequent shapes.”

“To demonstrate their new process, the team created several models, including a flower [capable of opening] its petals upon heating and a lattice model [capable of expanding] up to eight times its original size after heating.”

This all sounds fascinating, of course, but what about practical implications?

Well, the teams believe this new 4D printing process “can improve printing time and material savings up to 90 percent, while also eliminating the hassle of mechanical programming from the design and manufacturing work flow… [This process also] has promising applications in the [medical, aerospace, and consumer products industries.]”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Azo Materials

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Adidas Launches Mass Produced 3D Printed Shoe

Tech Crunch reports on yet another game-changer in the footwear industry.  For the first time, Adidas has announced the launch of a mass-produced 3D printed shoe.

The Futurecraft 4D shoe “is a huge improvement on [Adidas’s] last 3D printed runners, which were more of a concept than an actual product.  The new version is better suited for mass production – Adidas plans on selling 5,000 pairs this…fall, which will scale up to more than 100,000 pairs by the end of 2018.  While the company hasn’t announced the price, expect the first run to still be priced as a limited-edition shoe.”

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Adidas’s announcement is its choice of partner, Carbon 3D.  We here at Replicator World have extensively covered Carbon 3D, which is a “Silicon Valley-based 3D printing company…[which has] raised over $200M from Sequoia Capital, GV, Yuri Milner and others.  [Carbon 3D] is focused on making 3D printing a viable manufacturing method for large-scale production across industries.”

“Using a method called Digital Light Synthesis, [Carbon 3D] is able to print objects up to 10 times faster than other 3D printers.  The difference is that instead of printing an object layer by layer from the top down like traditional additive 3D printers do, Carbon’s process is continuous and starts from the bottom.”

Carbon 3D’s 3D printers “use digital light below the printing surface to turn the liquid resin into a solid object.  The object, in this case the shoe’s midsoles, are pulled up and literally formed from the top down…after the midsole is printed it’s attached to the top of the shoe, which is made from fabric using traditional manufacturing methods.”

Not only are Futurecraft 4Ds faster to manufacture, they also provide Adidas with the ability to become more flexible, unlocking “performance-enhancing design modifications that would have been impossible with other materials like foam.”

“While the first step is just to get to mass-production, Adidas eventually sees a future where everyone will be able to have their own 3D printed shoe, with the midsole totally customized to their individual needs.”

Image Courtesy of Tech Crunch, Adidas, and Carbon 3D

Quotes Courtesy of Tech Crunch

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