Carbon, the ultrafast 3D printer that makes shoes

The ultrafast carbon 3D printing technique, which uses ultraviolet light, will revolutionize mass production and the customization of objects

Imagine a new 3D printing method, capable of working much faster than previous models and above all capable of making products from any type of plastic. This innovative 3D printing system exists and is called Carbon. And it was invented by Joseph De Simone.

How does this new printer work? A mechanical arm is immersed in a liquid and pulls out the plastic to be molded according to the final design. The liquid is nothing more than a photosensitive precursor material and the arm, when immersed, continuously shoots ultraviolet light at the bottom of the plastic lattice to be modeled. These are the first two steps that characterize this new 3D printing technique. Using with this system of high-performance polymers, such as polyurethanes and epoxy resins, printing times are shortened incredibly.

The speed at the base of the success

De Simone said that with this system an object can be made a thousand times faster than a classic 3D printing. And speed will be everything for the 3D printer in the future, as evidenced by the $222 million investment De Simone has received from several companies, including GE Ventures. In addition, unlike many other printing prototypes currently in circulation, Carbon is already ready for use in mass industry. And it's no coincidence that Adidas has taken such an interest in the project that it has formed a partnership. "The volume of products and the speed of production we can achieve with Carbon's digital light synthesis is unprecedented," commented Paul Gaudio, creative director at Adidas. The company will produce 5 thousand pairs of shoes with this technique between next fall and early winter. But by 2021, there will be millions of Adidas models made this way.

The Carbon Project

Before founding Carbon in 2013, De Simone spent 20 years in the classrooms of the University of North Carolina as a chemist specializing in polymers. Thanks to a former student, he became curious about the world of 3D printers and the project of carbon printing using UV light was born. At first, the prototypes created problems because they had to be assembled in post-production, but then De Simone was inspired by the T-1000 robot seen in the movie Terminator 2 and modified his design to make it faster and more efficient.


The collaboration between Carbon and Adidas will bring customization to the mass consumer level. With Carbon 3D printing, it will be super fast to customize your own shoe. And every consumer will be able to create the model to their liking. Carbon is also designing machine learning software to help consumers generate the optimal print design based on the parameters of a given product.