Tags: 3-D | Printing | Consumer | Products | Shoes

WSJ: 3-D Printing Will Yield Innovative Consumer Products Such as Shoes

WSJ: 3-D Printing Will Yield Innovative Consumer Products Such as Shoes
3D printer head printing an object (Ben Bibikov | Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Monday, 15 May 2017 10:33 AM

Innovative techniques in 3-D printing reportedly mean some previously impossible design will start showing up in consumer products.

“This may be the year you get 3-D-printed shoes,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

“By the end of 2017, the transformation of manufacturing will hit a milestone: mass-produced printed parts. Until now, that concept was an oxymoron, since 3-D printing has been used mainly for prototyping and customized parts,” the WSJ reported.

“But the radical innovation of 3-D printing techniques means we are finally going to see some previously impossible designs creep into our consumer goods. In the long term, it also means new products that previously would have been impractical to produce, and a geographical shift of some manufacturing closer to customers,” WSJ.com reported.

For its part, Adidas recently launched a new sneaker with a 3D-printed sole that it plans to mass-produce next year, part of a broader push by the German sportswear firm to react faster to changing fashions and create more customized products.

Adidas already lets people customize the color and pattern of shoes ordered online but new 3D printing methods will make small production runs, limited edition shoes and even soles designed to fit an individual's weight and gait economical, Reuters has reported.

Rivals Nike, Under Armour and New Balance have also been experimenting with 3D printing but have so far only used the technique to make prototypes, soles tailored for sponsored athletes and a handful of high-priced novelty shoes.

That's because traditional 3D printers are slower, more expensive and often create an inferior product than the injection moulds for plastic that are currently used to produce hundreds of millions of shoes each year, mostly in Asia.

However, Adidas says its new partnership with Silicon Valley start-up Carbon allows it to overcome many of those difficulties to produce a sole that can rival one made by an injection mould, and at a speed and price that allow for mass production.

"This is a milestone not only for us as a company but also for the industry," said Gerd Manz, Adidas head of technology innovation, announcing the launch of its new "Futurecraft 4D" shoe. "We've cracked some of the boundaries."

Carbon, financed by venture firms such as Sequoia Capital as well as funds set up by General Electric and Alphabet's Google, has pioneered a technique that prints with light-sensitive polymer resin that is then baked for strength.

Standard 3D printers build up products with layers of plastic powder, a method used by Hewlett Packard which is working with Nike and says its newest machines work 10 times faster and at half the cost than earlier models.

Adidas hopes to sell 5,000 pairs of its "Futurecraft 4D" this year, and 100,000 next year as Carbon cuts the time it takes to print a sole from the current hour and a half to as low as 20 minutes per sole.

The shoes will sell at an unspecified premium price but Adidas plans to lower the cost as the technology develops.

Late last year Adidas sold a few hundred pairs of running shoes with soles made by regular 3D printing for $333 but they were relatively rigid and heavy and took 10 hours to print.

And 3D printing also has its sweeter aspects, to be sure.

A specialized printing machine at Belgian chocolate shop Miam Factory reportedly has applied melted chocolate to shape a three-dimensional object, Reuters reported.

Miam Factory - French for "Yum" - was spun off three months ago from nearby University of Liege's Smart Gastronomy Lab, which researches technology in the food and beverages sector, and operates four specialized 3D printers.

The company produces 3D-printed chocolate objects and also engraves chocolates and macaroons with messages or logos for clients, such as nearby brewery Bertinchamps.

The brewery wanted a unique prize for the winners of an Easter egg hunt and ordered chocolate beer bottles. 

The chocolate is ready to eat straight after printing, which can take from 10 minutes to three hours. The bottles for the Bertinchamps Brewery took just under three hours and used up 24.6 meters of chocolate.

(Newsmax wires services contributed to this report).

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Innovative techniques in 3-D printing reportedly mean some previously impossible design will start showing up in consumer products.
3-D, Printing, Consumer, Products, Shoes
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2017-33-15
Monday, 15 May 2017 10:33 AM
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