New Balance is making major strides in footwear constructing technology with the launch of a limited-edition high performance running shoe with a 3D printed midsole.
“This project represents an unprecedented technical collaboration in footwear,” said Sean Murphy, senior manager of innovation and engineering at New Balance, in a statement. “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. These are the types of collaborations that will drive footwear design and manufacturing in the future.”
The currently unnamed shoe was made through an exclusive collaboration with 3D Systems using its newly developed elastomeric powder, DuraForm Flex TPU. According to New Balance, the midsoles “leverage the benefits of 3D printing and breakthroughs in materials science to achieve an optimal balance of flexibility, strength, weight and durability,” and are created “based on underfoot pressure data from heel strikers with more cushioning elements in areas of higher average pressure.”
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New Balance said the data-to-design formula is reminiscent of how it created the midsoles for its Fresh Foam collection, using a process called selective laser sintering that uses a laser to convert new powder materials into solid cross-sections.
In 2013, New Balance outfitted track athlete Jack Bolas with data-customized, 3D printed spike plates, and has continued to provide its athletes with custom printed spikes including US Olympic athlete Kim Conley at the 2014 USATF Outdoor National Championships, customized soccer cleats including what Aaron Ramsey wore in the FA Cup Final on May 30, and baseball spikes for its sponsored players.
“In 2013 we said this was the future of footwear manufacturing and today we are proud to bring the future to consumers with a fully 3D printed midsole,” said Robert DeMartini, president and CEO of New Balance, in a statement. “With 3D printing we are able to pursue performance customization at a whole new level. The New Balance Innovation Team is showcasing the latest in performance running and these advancements signify an important step forward to becoming one of the world’s top athletic brands.”
The running shoe will launch first in Boston in April 2016 and later at select New Balance retail locations worldwide. They will be displayed – and used by employees – in the 3D Systems booth at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in January.