3D Printed FootwearConsumer Products

How Carbon changed footwear and is doing it again with 4DFWD

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The recently expanded adidas 4DFWD brand features the world’s first 3D printed (via Carbon DLS technology), anisotropic lattice midsole, designed to move the wearer forward with only normal vertical impact pressure. This is the latest innovation in one of the most innovative and disruptive projects ever to emerge in both the additive manufacturing and the footwear industries.

Created in 2017, the 4D brand has been an icon of design and manufacturing and is one of the largest applications of 3D printing in history, with millions of parts printed and sold worldwide. Now the brand has leaped forward once again with the new 4DFWD midsole. It is still made with the Carbon DLS process and it uses Carbon’s latest high-performance resin optimized for forward motion and a smoother transition delivering a unique running experience.

How Carbon changed footwear and is doing it again with 4DFWD Carbon’s next-gen, high-performance elastomeric (EPU) material represents many breakthroughs in photopolymer technology, optimizing for print time, accuracy, and post-processing of high-volume applications. The 39% bio-based material ensures 23% more cushioning and a 15% reduction of braking forces

The new 4DFWD lattice utilizes an entirely new 3D printed midsole design which incorporates a unique property of physics directly into the running shoe. The proprietary FWD CELL shape translates vertical impact forces from a runner’s downward step into forward momentum. The cell shape, size, and strut diameter are some of the parameters that can be fine-tuned when building lattices, giving designers and engineers ultimate control when building high-performance products.

The Story of 4D

[Get Carbon’s infographic poster here]

4DFWD represents the power of the partnership between adidas and Carbon––where a vision can be realized when ideas are unencumbered by the constraints of traditional manufacturing. The freedom to be creative has fueled this partnership from the very beginning.

The collaboration began in 2016 when adidas and Carbon partnered to realize completely new paradigms in footwear designs and manufacturing. Carbon’s material scientists developed an entirely new elastomeric material, EPU 41, that could live up to the demanding mechanical properties of a revolutionary running shoe midsole. Additionally, the development of cutting-edge additive processes and tools were critical for efficiently manufacturing the new unmoldable midsole at scale.

How Carbon changed footwear and is doing it again with 4DFWD
Adidas Executive Board Global Brands member Eric Liedtke holds the new Futurecraft shoe at an unveiling event in New York City, New York, U.S. April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Although many were skeptical, the 4D Futurecraft Launch footwear launched – perfectly on schedule – in 2017, proving that the Carbon DLS process allowed adidas designers to create one of the most advanced shoes with a multi-zone midsole produced from a single print. The monolithic, lattice design comprised over 10,000 individual struts that enabled the precise tuning of the midsole for performance––increased lattice density provided support, while decreased density creates cushioning, giving runners lasting comfort with responsive feedback.

Carbon and adidas began developing the next generation, high-performance elastomeric resin. The mandate was lighter, stronger, faster and, in 2018, the new AlphaEDGE midsole was introduced for a more versatile performance by precisely adding thickness to the struts directly under the strike of the runner’s heel. Now, in 2021, the 4DFWD is emerging again as the game-changing result of a perfect blend of unconstrained creativity, powerful technology, and bleeding-edge material science.

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