Nov 19, 2015 | By Kira

Additive manufacturing is already a mainstay in industrial factories and manufacturing circles, but the next big thing in 3D printing is how to effectively introduce it to consumers, and make 3D printed products an affordable, accessible and indispensable part of their every day lives. What could be more accessible and indispensable than a good old pair of running shoes?

Hoping to beat high profile competitors Nike and Adidas to the finish line, New Balance today announced their newest running shoe model that includes the company’s first 3D printed midsole. And while Nike and Adidas have set loose release dates for when their respective technologies might hit the market, New Balance isn’t dilly-dallying: their 3D printed shoe will be available as a limited edition collection during this April’s Boston Marathon, after which the company intends to expand their retail operations to more global retail locations.

The design for New Balance’s 3D printed shoe is based on their Fresh Foam Zante model, a classic-looking yet high-performance runner. While the new model will keep its conventional cloth upper, the innovation lies in its 3D printed midsole. Whereas most midsoles are made from foam through injection molding—a manufacturing technique that is both expensive and wasteful—New Balance has partnered with 3D Systems to access their SLS 3D printing technology, using laser sintering to fuse a proprietary elastomer powder into a cohesive material for the midsole, that will be both lightweight and extremely durable.

"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. And that’s what’s really attractive about SLS printing," said Katherine Petrecca, general manager for studio innovation at New Balance. "It really opens up design capabilities in being able to design a part down to the millimeter and opens the door to performance customization."

The resulting elastomer midsole is thinner and lighter than New Balance’s previous attempts at 3D printed prototypes, and ready for the market. In its current iteration, the midsole weighs around 40 grams (1.4 ounces), which is still heavier than a full-length, foam-only midsole, however New Balance has said that they have time between now and April to continue making improvements. “In design, we have been erring on the side of durability and still have the opportunity to optimize for weight,” said Petrecca.

Though no prices have been released, New Balance has said that the market price for their 3D printed shoe will be somewhat higher than their regular range. Due to the technology, they are hoping it will appeal to “serious amateur runners” interested in innovative footwear. Given the inherent customization of 3D printing technology, New Balance is also planning to offer consumers the opportunity to customize their 3D printed midsoles as part of a trial program that will run in select retail locations by 2017.

New Balance has also shown interest in 3D bio-printed wearables, having collaborated with MIT's Media Lab to develop a 3D printed biohybrid material powered by bacteria that can open or contract in reaction to sweat and humidity.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

 

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MarcC wrote at 11/19/2015 7:56:24 PM:

Big open cell structures hope u don't tread on a dog turd! But good on NB for pip'n the big boys to the post well maybe not now that the release schedule is out there.



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