Mar 7, 2016 | By Kira

When it comes to 3D printed running shoes, sports industry giants Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have been successively trying to edge each other out of the race, with promises of more customization, comfort, and performance enhancement than we ever thought possible. Now, underdog company Under Armour has beaten them all to the finish line by unveiling the first 3D printed training shoe to actually hit the consumer market.

The limited edition UA Architech, to be officially released this month, features a 3D printed lattice midsole combined with a ClutchFit auxetic upper. While the flow-molded, 3D ClutchFit upper was designed by Under Amour to move with the athlete, providing flexible yet robust support, the unique 3D printed lattice-structure heel supplies light and springy cushioning for unmatched comfort and agility. The result is a hybrid-like sports shoe that is ideal for a range of training activities, from heavy weight lifting to speed workouts.

The unique structure of the midsole was achieved via a combination of generative design and 3D printing technology. First, using Autodesk Within software, the midsole's lattice structure was algorithmically generated based on the desired criteria: durability, flexibility, and weight. This structurally complex 3D model was then further refined using Autodesk Fusion 360 and 3ds Max, resulting in an optimized 3D lattice that could neither be designed nor realized without advanced 3D design technology.

The 3D files were then sent to Under Armour's state-of-the-art Innovation Lab in Baltimore, where they were 3D printed from a combination of polymers and elastomers. While traditional manufacturing processes, such as thermoplastic injection molding, could also have been used, 3D printing allowed for dramatic cost savings across the board, from rapidly manufacturing multiple prototypes, which were physically tested by more than 80 athletes, to actually producing the final design. In the future, Under Armour plans to explore options for mass customization, yet another major benefit of 3D printing technology. For example, consumers could select their preferred shoe properties online, or even receive bespoke 3D printed shoe measurements in-store.

Considering that Adidas, New Balance, Nike, and even new comers such as Cobber Technologies have all been talking about their own 3D printed sports shoes for quite some time, the fact that Under Armour has gone ahead and actually launched their own says a lot about the company’s philosophy. If the technology exists, why make consumers wait? Instead, Under Armour’s approach is to get the product into consumers’ hands as early as possible so they can get their feedback and move on to designing the next batch. Another interesting move is that Under Armor chose to create a training model rather than a running shoe, further setting it apart from its competition.

images courtesy of Under Armour via Footwear News

The limited edition UA Architech will be available this month in a limited edition run of just 96 pairs (Under Armour is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, having launched back in 1996). Each pair will cost approximately $300. Over the next few months, the company will continue to unveil additional 3D printed shoes, all in an effort to learn about the process, reach out to customers for feedback, and ultimately refine and perfect their 3D printed product.

Editor's note: this story has been updated to include additional relevant information.


Posted in 3D Printing Application



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I. A. M. Magic wrote at 3/8/2016 11:07:33 AM:

Where is the buy button ?!

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