Mar.7, 2013

US athletic brand New Balance is introducing a track-specific running shoe that uses 3D printing to customised spike plate on the sole of shoes that is supposed to enhance performance with every step.

(Associated Press/New Balance - This product image released by New Balance shows a New Balance shoe from Jack Bolas’ 3D printed plate. |AP Photo/New Balance)

Customization is not just about choosing colors or other aesthetic details anymore:

Athletes are measured on a sensitive track to gauge the direction their foot travels whether its forward or back, left or right, and how it moves; 100 sensors are placed on an insert inside the shoe to measure pressure at different points; and a motion capture system — like the ones used for video games and movies — adds stride and broader movement into the equation.

Based on the biomechanical data, researchers printed the spike plates, the part of the shoe that actually connects with the ground, using an SLS 3D printer, and then mated to a standard upper.

"We believe this is the future of performance footwear and we are excited to bring this to consumers." says New Balance president and CEO Robert DeMartini.

Right now, this process is only for New Balance elite, sponsored athletes, including 1500-meter World Champion gold medalist Jenny Barringer Simpson, 2012 US Olympian Kim Conley, 2012 British Olympian Barbara Parker and All-American runner Jack Bolas. As a bonus, the athlete's signature is added to the plate.

"The technology is early and our implementation is still really in a very early phase, but you can envision as the technology improves and capacity increases — and cost comes down — the audience who will benefit from customization will just grow and grow and grow. This will get down eventually to the casual athlete." says Katherine Petrecca, the company's business manager of studio innovation.

It wasn't singularly demand or technology that drove the development of the technique, said Wawrousek, studio innovation lead designer, it was the idea that the industry is at a watershed moment, thanks to both demand and technology. "It feels like a new industrial revolution in some ways. We're no longer limited by scale to produce a product, and customization can be totally practical," he said.

The athletes themselves were another factor. "It almost never happens that you put an athlete in a shoe, and they don't have some comment about it," Wawrousek added. "In this case, we can have an athlete say, 'This one particular spike is in the wrong place. Can you move it?' In this case, we can say, 'Yes!"







Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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