The FuelCell Echo Triple with 3D printed forefoot midsole [Image: Formlabs]
The latest partially 3D printed shoe is hitting the market: meet the FuelCell Echo Triple.
Three months ago, New Balance introduced its Formlabs-powered, partially 3D printed, shoe, the 990S TripleCell. As promised, the next design is having a September debut.
New Balance x Formlabs
Formlabs and New Balance have been working together for about two years now to get to this point.
The partnership has yielded interesting results so far, including a custom Rebound Resin material made just for New Balance. They explain:
“Rebound Resin was custom made to resist the daily wear and tear faced by an athletic shoe. Shoe materials experience a variety of environments, with the additional need to withstand various levels of pressure thousands of times per day. Designed to create springy, resilient lattice structures, Rebound Resin has a much higher energy return, tear strength, and elongation than any other Formlabs material. Rebound Resin is strong enough to be used in gaskets, seals, and automotive interiors, but light and flexible enough for the sole of a shoe. New Balance has exclusive rights to use Rebound Resin in footwear, but the material was designed for a wide range of applications.”
Along with the new material is the FuelCell platform powering these partially 3D printed shoes, bringing advanced manufacturing — with a strong SLA presence — to their footwear manufacture.
The platform and material seem to be proving out already; the June launch of the 990 Sport TripleCell “was met with high demand as the model sold out quickly.”
TripleCell Shoes and 3D Printing
The 990 Sport TripleCell (left) and FuelCell Echo Triple shoes with their 3D printed components [Image: Formlabs]
The new FuelCell Echo Triple features a 3D printed forefoot midsole.
Its predecessor saw 3D printing in the heel, where a lattice offered springiness at a lighter weight than previous incarnations of similar designs.
Focus now is on more forward in the shoe as New Balance engages with different design concepts to best utilize 3D printing in its shoes. Formlabs explains of the differing 3D printing:
“The 990S TripleCell included Rebound Resin in the heel, offering extra arch support for customers. The FuelCell Echo Triple moves Rebound Resin to the forefoot, utilizing the unique lattice structure to boost performance during athletic activity. These two shoes represent the first steps of what is possible with 3D printing, and are a showcase of what to expect from the TripleCell collection.”
As these highlight, experimenting is important — and of course, 3D printing is well suited for that. New Balance is also using rapid prototyping to check out new potential designs, benefiting from in-house 3D printing capabilities.
“By eliminating molds, we can save months of development time. TripleCell technology makes it possible to easily produce multiple designs at the same time, reinventing the traditional iterative testing approach. We had the ability to generate and edit thousands of options before landing on the high-performance, running-focused structures you see today,” Formlabs notes.
Another 3D printing benefit comes to the fore again with these new shoe designs, as they are all manufactured locally to Massachusetts-based New Balance.
New Balance is thinking bigger than these two designs, planning to scale up TripleCell shoes in 2020.
It seems we can anticipate more designs to come, as the collection will be getting dedicated facilities of their own. Footwear is a major market for 3D printing, and together with Formlabs technology and other advanced manufacturing processes, New Balance is showing that they are all in on their state-of-the-art shoes.
Investing into new manufacturing facilities is a big step (pun intended), and one that underscores the seriousness with which they have already invested into newer technologies. Formlabs and New Balance say they’ll have more news next year, and it certainly sounds like we can expect more broadly available shoes to come.
The FuelCell Echo Triple isn’t on the New Balance website as of the time of publication, but estimated retail price noted in June was $175.