New Balance is the latest footwear company to bring 3D printing into its manufacturing mix, launching a shoe with an advanced sole promised to offer new strength and elasticity. The company says advances in material sciences and an apparently fruitful partnership with 3D printing specialists 3D Systems are behind the high-tech runners.
Specifically, it is the midsoles in New Balance's newest offering that are claimed to represent an advance in high performance running shoes. This is the cushioned pad that rests between the outsole and the upper sole, or the part in between the bits that touch the ground and the foot.
The key ingredient is a new material developed by 3D Systems called DuraForm Flex TPU. This elastomeric powdering is shaped into midsoles layer-by-layer through selective laser sintering (SLS), with the designs optimized based on underfoot pressure data gathered by New Balance. 3D Systems says this approach has brought about new possibilities in terms of midsole flexibility, strength, weight and durability.
The potential benefits of using 3D printing to produce footwear include shoes that are lighter and custom molded for a more comfortable fit, with Adidas, Nike and less sporty outfits like Sols all getting in on the action. For New Balance's part, its shoes won't be custom-printed for each person, but it claims they will offer an unprecedented combination of strength and elasticity, which it describes as ideal for running shoes.
The limited edition footwear will be on show at CES in January 2016, then become available first in Boston in April and selected New Balance retailers around the globe after that.
You can see the short promo video below.