We reported on shoemaker Adidas’ comprehensive project to 3D print shoes a few days ago, but now it appears competitor New Balance is also dipping into 3D printed shoes.
An announcement from the global shoemaker described a partnership with 3D Systems to develop 3D printed shoe technology. Specifically, they two intend to leverage 3D Systems’ new DuraForm® Flex TPU powder 3D print material. This material would be used in 3D Systems’ SLS systems to print very strong, but flexible shoe components.
The idea is slightly different than Adidas notion of printing custom shoe components that precisely match the dimensions of the wearer. Instead, it appears that New Balance intends on mass manufacturing specially designed 3D printed shoe components that exhibit superior properties over conventionally made components. They explain:
The new midsoles leverage the benefits of 3D printing and breakthroughs in materials science to achieve an optimal balance of flexibility, strength, weight and durability.
Evidently they’re going to publicly show off the new 3D printed shoes at next years Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where you can be sure we will be present to take pictures and interview the experts on this development.
For New Balance, we think this is an incredibly good idea, as it is more practical than Adidas’ approach. For Adidas’ “Futurecraft” project to work, there’s several technological, economic and operational challenges to overcome. Meanwhile, New Balance should be able to begin selling their product much sooner. In fact, they say they will begin selling a “limited edition” in April 2016. That’s less than six months away! They say it’s the “first 3D printed running shoe” and they may be correct, at least the first one you'd see in an actual retail store.
For 3D Systems, this is also a big deal, as it could create a potential gold mine in ongoing manufacturing business. Imagine if the new shoe caught on, and 3D Systems were requested to print larger quantities of the product in the same way they currently 3D print millions of Invisalign products? That’s a business any 3D print service would die for.
Via New Balance