Consumer Products

New Balance and Formlabs reveal TripleCell sneaker with upgraded 3D printed forefoot

Multinational footwear maker New Balance is updating its TripleCell 3D printing platform with the addition of a new sneaker: the FuelCell Echo Triple. 

Launching on September 27th with an expected retail value of $175, the shoe features a forefoot (part under the ball of the feet) 3D printed using Formlabs technology. It is a new take on the standard FuelCell Echo, and follows the release of the revamped New Balance 990 Sport in June 2019.

“TripleCell will deliver the industry’s pinnacle expression of data to design with seamless transitions between variable properties underfoot,” explains Katherine Petrecca, New Balance General Manager, Innovation Design Studio. “This new, cutting edge, digitally manufactured technology is now scaling exclusively within New Balance factories in the U.S. further establishing us as a leader in 3D printing and domestic manufacturing.”

“Formlabs has been an integral partner to bring this to life. We’re really going to be able to disrupt the industry not only in performance, but also in athlete customization and speed to market” 

The Formlabs New Balance FuelCell Echo Triple. Photo via Formlabs.
The Formlabs New Balance FuelCell Echo Triple. Photo via Formlabs.

New Balance and Formlabs

The relationship between New Balance and Massachusetts-based 3D printer OEM Formlabs was first revealed in 2017. Both companies announced an exclusive partnership to develop high-performance materials and hardware while developing a manufacturing process for athletic footwear. 

One of the results of this partnership has been the creation of a proprietary photopolymer called Rebound Resin. The material is designed to create springy, resilient lattice structures with the durability, reliability, and longevity expected from an injection molded thermoplastic. In early 2019, the Rebound Resin was previewed during the Digital Factory Conference and the Formlabs User Summit events in Boston. Katherine Petrecca, General Manager at New Balance Athletics and her team demonstrated various 3D printed structures made from the previously unnamed resin. 

3D printed balls created from the newly developed New Balance Formlabs resin. photo by Tia Vialva.
3D printed balls created from the New Balance x Formlabs Rebound Resin. photo by Tia Vialva.

Lattice structures made from Rebound Resin were used to form the heel of the redesigned 990 Sport, helping to maintain the cushioning experience found in the classic style while being 10% lighter than the New Balance 990v5. This basis has now been further enhanced in the FuelCell Echo Triple shoe.

The reimagined New Balance 990 Sport with a 3D printed heel. Photo via New Balance.
The reimagined New Balance 990 Sport with a 3D printed heel. Photo via New Balance.

Developing forefoot technology using Formlabs 3D printing

The standard FuelCell Echo sneaker was first released for New Balance’s FuelCell platform, which is dedicated to forefoot running shoes. Looking to update the shoe’s forefoot technology with 3D printing, New Balance integrated the sneaker within its TripleCell platform as well, resulting in the FuelCell Echo Triple iteration. The experience and knowledge gained from the original launch of the FuelCell platform helped to inform the creation of the new TripleCell sneaker. 

The design of the FuelCell Echo Triple consists of hundreds of precisely shaped and mapped out design elements. It is engineered to deliver long-lasting high rebound and cushioning to improve running performance. 

TripleCell technology can be found in the lattice structure at the forefoot of the FuelCell Echo Triple, located at the front of the sneaker. It is 3D printed using Formlabs machines. One of the notable benefits of applying 3D printing to make this component is that it eliminates the use of molds, which can lengthen and create extra cost in the product development process. According to Dávid Lakatos, Chief Product Officer of Formlabs, “3D printing is changing how companies approach manufacturing, with this announcement New Balance is pioneering localized manufacturing.”

“By eliminating the dependence on molds and direct printing for both prototyping and production,” Lakatos adds, “their team shifts from months to hours in the development and production cycles.”

“We’re moving towards a world where design cycles are closing in on the whim of the consumer and it’s exciting to be on the frontlines of this with New Balance.”

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Featured image shows the Formlabs New Balance FuelCell Echo Triple. Photo via Formlabs.