When Adidas showed off a prototype 3D printed shoe last year we were very excited to see such a giant leap forward in 3D printing, manufacturing, and sneaker design. What we didn’t realize was that within months there would be a slew of other shoe manufacturers jumping into the 3D printing “ring.” We have seen a second 3D printed sneaker from Adidas, have release plans from New Balance for a pair of kicks with printed midsoles, and even witnessed a successful Kickstarter for a fully 3D knitted shoe. Now we can add one more company to the list. Under Armour just announced a sneaker with a 3D printed midsole. The shoe, called UA Architech go on sale today for $300 through the company’s website and at their company store in Baltimore. The catch…Under Armour only produced 96 pairs. Like other sneakers with 3D printed midsoles, the design is based on a lattice structure. To ensure the pattern of their lattice design achieved the best possible balance of support, cushioning, flexibility, and energy return, the Under Armour used Autodesk’s Within software. Within takes a set of goal perimeters and then automatically generates the optimal 3D printing design. The result is a shoe which Under Armour claims has the “ultimate stability and cushioning.”
With steam picking up on the release of 3D printed shoes, we expect to see the release of a mass market sneaker with a printed midsole within the next 18 months. The current batch of printed sneakers feels like a market test; the companies are testing consumer interest and will likely also research extended use wear. Every company has chosen a similar lattice design, pointing to the fact that they all agree on a similar cushioning method. If the shoes weather time well and consumer interest is there, we expect that manufactures will begin to invest money in machines to produce the sneakers at a larger scale. Over the years, this will eventual evolve to an entirely 3D printed shoe, which is great news for the environment! Fashion is one of the top polluting industries and 3D printed garments result in a product with virtually no waste.