Technology

The 3D-printed future of footwear

"[This] means 'the end of prototyping.'"

"[This] means 'the end of prototyping.'"

“Being able to design and test products where they are fabricated, with a 3D printer, means ‘the end of prototyping.'” -Joseph DeSimone

Proponents of 3D printing have long talked about the possibility of using the technology to customize consumer products. One of the most oft-cited possibilities is printing sneakers with soles tailored to individual runner’s biometrics or to the quirks of each couch potato’s arches.

Bay Area 3D-printing company Carbon, co-founded by UNC’s Joseph DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC, is making that happen. Carbon has been working with Adidas to develop materials and designs for athletic-shoe midsoles, the squishy, shock-absorbing part of the sneaker.

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