German shoe-maker adidas announced its latest shoes, the Alphaedge 4D, late last month. The company, which started operations on August 18, 1949, in Herzogenaurach, Germany, has over the past decades come up with great designs that have revolutionised the industry.
However, adidas now believes that in the Alphaedge 4D, it has now created its most revolutionary product yet — one that it says will define the future of the industry and how shoes are created here onwards.
Now, we know this sounds like usual marketing talk.
But is it simply just that?
The fact of the matter is that the Alphaedge 4D has been created using "light and oxygen", which, to be honest, makes it sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. We will soon be doing a detailed review of the sneakers, where we will talk more about how the sneakers perform in daily use.
But, for now, we are going to use this space to understand the technology used in making these sneakers and see if it's really anything special.
The 4D midsole of the shoe has been created after studying tons of data. (Photo: adidas)
Midsole created using Digital Light Synthesis
As we have mentioned above, the futuristic Alphaedge 4D's midsole has been created using light and oxygen, via a process pioneered by a California-based firm, Carbon.
The process involved is called Digital Light Synthesis that uses "digital light projection, oxygen-permeable optics and programmable liquid resins" to create high-performance, durable midsoles that promise to improve an athlete's performance.
In simple words, what's really happening here is that adidas is using oxygen and light to shape the midsole.
When the material is hit by light, it hardens up, and when it is hit by oxygen it stays liquid – allowing the shoes to be shaped – and re-shaped – using the process.
Despite being a niche product, the Alphaedge 4D could end up finding many takers. (Photo: adidas)
Apart from this, the other big difference from normal 3D printing – the current generation technology for creating shoes – is that that this technology uses liquid polymer instead of solid plastic for the creation of the midsole, allowing the shoes to be more light and comfortable.
But that's not all.
As adidas explains, the 4D midsole of the shoe has been created after studying tons of data – of the running and usage patterns of some top athletes in the world. The particular data-driven approach helps the shoe to be further customised to the athlete's needs, helping them achieve controlled energy return and breathable cushioning during intensive runs.
The Alphaedge 4D promises customisation at the most basic of levels. (Photo: adidas)
But this is not the first time when the technology of 4D printed midsole using light and technology is being seen.
Earlier last year, adidas had showcased its Futercraft 4D which was the first shoe to use 4D printed midsole – in essence also serving as the building block of the innovation behind the Alphaedge 4D.
Speaking about the technology to Footwear News, adidas' CMO, Eric Liedtke, explained, "4D is new, that’s why we came up with it. We don’t call this to be a 3D printing thing because it’s not a 3D... The way it’s created from light and oxygen through software design, you could get down into the individual component cells and adjust the strength, durability and the shape... We could make you a shoe and me a shoe, it will look the same but will be completely constructed differently based upon our data and how we run."
Customising the future
And it is this promise of customisation at the most basic of levels that truly sets apart the Alphaedge 4D from anything that exists in the market currently.
Since it is created using a certain set of data, engineers in the future can create shoes that meet the specific needs of the wearer. Unlike the shoes of today, that are only tailored to a user's approximate foot size, shoes created using this process in the future would be tailored perfectly for the person wearing them.
For now, this process remains a work in progress.
As such, adidas is still not producing the shoe in large quantities – from very limited numbers at launch in April 2017, to more than 5,000 pairs by the end of 2017 and 1,00,000 pairs by the end of 2018. Another factor that could work against the Alphaedge 4D is its Rs 27,999 price tag.
Having said that, it's a niche product one with solid technology to back the price.
As such, don't be surprised if it ends up finding a fair amount of takers.