New Balance and 3D Printing

So recently, there’s been quite a lot of talk with regards to 3D printing, and as the technology is becoming more and more accessible, brands like adidas have been leading the charge in this area, but they’re definitely not the only ones getting stuck into the whole 3D printing technology.

New Balance are also right in the thick of it, and have just announced that they will be launching their first high performance running shoe with a 3D printed midsole!

New Balance’s first high performance running shoe which will have a 3D printed midsole will be in collaboration with 3D systems and their newly developed elastomeric powder, DuraForm® Flex TPU.

These new midsoles leverage the benefits of 3D printing and breakthroughs in materials science to achieve an optimal balance of flexibility, strength, weight, and durability.

As you can imagine with he technology being very new, this running shoe will be limited edition, and it will first launch in New Balance’s home of Boston in April 2016, and then followed by select New Balance retail locations around the globe.

New Balance state that the latest designs of the 3D-printed midsole are based on underfoot pressure data from heel strikers with more cushioning elements in areas of higher average pressure.

This data to design formula follows the path that their designers used to create the popular Fresh Foam Collection with. For midsole production, selective laser sintering (SLS) is utilised, which is a process that converts new powder materials into solid cross-sections, layer by layer, using a laser.

The earlier mentioned DuraForm® Flex TPU powder gives the resulting parts a previously unavailable combination of strength and elasticity that is ideal for performance running shoes.

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“This project represents an unprecedented technical collaboration in footwear”, says Sean Murphy New Balance Senior Manager of Innovation and Engineering. “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.”   

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Although it might just seem like the cool thing to do is to jump on the 3D printing bandwagon, but New Balance were actually the first athletic brand to have a track athlete, middle distance runner Jack Bolas, compete with data-customized, 3D-printed spike plates.

It doesn’t end there though, as since then, New Balance athletes have continued to compete in custom, printed spikes including Kim Conley at the 2014 USATF Outdoor National Championships, where she came in first in the 10,000m.

A little closer to home for us here in the UK, New Balance have also created customized football boots, which Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal wore with printed plates in the FA Cup Final on May 30, 2015.

“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,” says New Balance President and CEO Robert DeMartini. “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.” 

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Of course, like all new technology when it comes to New Balance, we are extremely excited about these advancements in the 3D printing area, and we will be sure to keep a keen eye on how this develops. Hopefully sometime in 2016 we’ll have a pair of 3D printed shoes on our feet!

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