Your Shoes Will Be Printed Shortly

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By Christopher Mims – This may be the year you get 3-D-printed shoes.

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.

I have two very different examples of this milestone, one plastic, the other steel. There’s a running shoe from Adidas AG, with a 3-D-printed latticed sole that looks almost organic, like the exposed roots of a plant.

Then there’s a steel hinge, indistinguishable from any other metal part except for incredibly fine striations in its surface, as if it had been deposited like sandstone rather than forged. In a feat impossible with conventional manufacturing, all three moving pieces of the hinge were crafted together.

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