New Balance announced that it has made the first 3D-printed running shoe in the world, beating both Nike and Adidas to the finish line.
Top athletic shoemakers have been racing to develop 3D-printed shoes that are not too heavy or rigid, which have been the common problems in making them. In collaboration with South Carolina-based 3D Systems, New Balance manufactured the shoe using elastomeric powder, making it completely flexible and light enough.
"This project represents an unprecedented technical collaboration in footwear. 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," Sean Murphy, New Balance senior manager of innovation and engineering, says. "These are the types of collaborations that will drive footwear design and manufacturing in the future,"
The midsole is created using selective laser sintering, where new powder materials are turned into solid cross-sections level by level using a laser. With this technology, New Balance could soon offer fully customized running shoes in the foreseeable future, as the shoemaker will be able to design soles proportionately to each individual's feet.
With a collection of underfoot data from heel strikers, New Balance was able to design the parts of the shoe with higher than average pressure to incorporate cushioning components.
"With 3D printing we are able to pursue performance customization at a whole new level," Robert DeMartini, president and CEO of New Balance, says.
The first 3D-printed shoes will be following a sort of honeycomb template, where a trial run of consumer-ready individualized running shoes is expected to roll out in 2017.
New Balance will showcase the shoes at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, where the 3D-printed footwear will be displayed and used by employees at the 3D Systems booth. The shoemaker hasn't given out a price tag yet, but it said that the printed 3D shoes will have a higher asking price than regular ones.
Hit up New Balance's video below to see the 3D-printed running shoes in action.