If you’ve followed the 3D printing news in the past few months, you’ve no doubt heard that many footwear manufacturers are looking to get in on the 3D printing craze. Nike and Adidas have both announced plans to rollout 3D printed shoes.
However, it looks like New Balance might be the first company to actually get a 3D printed model to the market. Here’s what you should know.
The New Balance 3D Printed Shoe
The new shoe from New Balance will be available in Boston in April, 2016 (for the Boston Marathon). After that, it will roll out globally. But what’s the shoe all about? Here’s a closer look.
The shoe is based on the company’s Fresh Foam Zante platform. It’s a high performance running shoe that manages to incorporate some classic sneaker appearance without actually hurting performance, durability or stability.
The upper is manufactured from cloth mesh, but the midsole is 3D printed.
Most shoe midsoles are created by injection molding. It’s an expensive process that also results in a lot of waste.
By switching to 3D printing, New Balance is not only able to cash in on the new technology, but actually reduces waste and costs.
New Balance is partnering with 3D Systems, and the shoes will be made with the company’s SLS 3D printing laser sintering technology. This will turn a powder into the material used to print the midsole, offering extremely high durability, as well as low weight.
“With injection molding, there are significant restrictions in how you can design a part or how you can engineer variable properties into a single part,” explained Katherine Petrecca, the company’s studio innovation general manager. “And that’s what’s really attractive about SLS printing.
It really opens up design capabilities in being able to design a part down to the millimeter and opens up the door to performance customization.”
By using 3D printing technology, New Balance was able to create a midsole that was lighter, more durable and thinner than anything they’d done before. The prototype weighs in at 1.4 ounces, which is heavier than what they want, but it’s just one step on the road to the Boston Marathon in 2016.
“In design, we have been erring on the side of durability and still have the opportunity to optimize for weight,” Petrecca said.
There has been no price released for the upcoming shoe, but New Balance has let it slip that customers can expect to pay a little more for this model than their regular offerings. There’s also talk of letting customers take part in a customization process that would create a midsole specifically designed for their foot.