3D printing technology has been utilized for footwear and orthopedic support by quite a few companies and individuals thus far. From the medically-supportive company SOLS, who 3D print custom-made insoles for the comfort and support of each wearer, to the fashionable reactive footwear created by MIT designers, additive manufacturing is no stranger to our feet. Now, we are really beginning to see more well-known footwear manufacturers implement 3D printing into their product lines, the latest of which is New Balance.
New Balance has just announced that, in collaboration with 3D Systems, they will be releasing a high performance running shoe that is manufactured with a 3D printed midsole. Although New Balance has been experimenting with implementing 3D printing technology into footwear design since 2012, their newest project certainly showcases the most functional use by any major footwear company thus far.
“To deliver this level of performance with a 3D-printed component, we paired experts in running and biomechanics with leaders in plastics engineering, material development and generative design,” says New Balance’s Senior Manager of Innovation and Engineering Sean Murphy. “These are the types of collaborations that will drive footwear design and manufacturing in the future.”
By utilizing 3D Systems’ DuraForm Flex TPU SLS material, which is a new elastomeric powder, the New Balance team was able to implement flexibility, strength, support, and durability into their new shoe like never before. What 3D printing the midsole allowed the designers to accomplish is an organic structure that only provides material precisely where it is needed, which leads to a much lighter and more comfortable experience for the wearer.
By 3D printing the midsole, which is the part of the shoe that offers comfort and support, each shoe can potentially be custom-made for those who need more or less support in certain areas. New Balance’s experts and bio-mechanical engineers, along with some assistance from 3D Systems’ material specialists, were able to produce an organically geometric midsole that not only feels great, but also looks incredibly unique, as well. New Balance plans on releasing the limited edition 3D printed running shoe in Boston in April 2016, with the rest of the world following shortly thereafter. The shoes will also be on display at the 3D Systems booth at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), hitting Las Vegas next January.