Jun 29, 2016 | By Andre

When it comes to sports, a lot of effort and money go into the gear that athletes wear to maximize their chances for victory. So its no wonder that sports drink companies like Gatorade and equipment companies like Nike or Under Armour put great energy into the science behind it all.

In an effort to provide better tools to create the ultimate athlete, clothing and accessories company Under Armour has just announced the opening of the UA Lighthouse. This 35,000 square-foot facility located in Baltimore, Maryland is built to be the epicenter of manufacturing and design innovation relating to sporting equipment.

And after a little investigation into what the facility houses, it’s obvious that a lot of money was infused into it. To start, the UA Lighthouse is overrun with a myriad of robotics that deal exclusively with high-tech technologies like 3D scanning and 3D printing. Both of which technologies have already proven to be a marketable way of creating 3D printed fashion accessories, so transitioning to sporting gear seems to be a natural evolution.

But why now? Ultimately its because its this investment that might push them above its competitors that have been doing things the same way for so long; or as CEO Kevin Plank puts it, “In our industry, we make shirts and footwear the same way we did 100 years ago. There has to be a better way.”

The better way includes 3D scanning (with the help of 3DMe by 3D Systems) to reduce waste and 3D printing for quick turnaround of footwear prototyping. The facility also houses a state-of-the-art 5-axis machining center and an array of other fabrication tools.

A secondary reason for the facility has to do with efficiency. As things stand, the industry standard for running shoes is roughly around 55 pieces per shoe. The SpeedForm shoe being tested for production at the UA Lighthouse on the other hand is made of just 14.

Fewer pieces might also be a big win for local manufacturing and Plank knows this. When asked why most US manufacturers make their products outside the country, he suggests that “there’s just not a good answer for it". The overall vision for the facility hopes to contribute to that answer by being a “local-for-local” type of environment, which means the ability to see the entire process through from design to manufacture in a singular ecosystem.

Whether or not the facility will indeed be a game changer for the industry or an expensive publicity stunt is yet to be seen. Whatever ends up happening, it's this energy to innovate and contribute to modern textiles and technology that shows how Under Armour isn’t afraid to take a chance here in the now.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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