New Balance has announced that it has developed a pair of 3D printed running sneakers. The news comes almost 2 months after Adidas announced a similar product. Both sneakers utilize a printed midsole with a porous structure engineered for cushioning. The New Balance is designed for heal strikers, with a design formula similar to the company’s Fresh Foam line of sneakers. The previously announced Adidas Futurecraft 3D, on the other hand, is customized as it is created for an individual’s foot shape and running style. While the Adidas sneaker is still considered a prototype (though they intend to bring it to market at some point), the 3D printed New Balance kicks already have a launch date. The New Balance sneaker will hit the market in 2016; the limited edition footwear will initially be sold in the company’s home market of Boston in April and will become available at select New Balance stores later in the year. There is currently no price set but we expect to hear a lot more about the shoe when it is on display at the 3D Systems (the shoe maker’s printing partner) booth at CES in January. We are so excited that a 3D printed piece of apparel is finally going to be sold in a normal retail environment and cannot wait until people are able to put it to the test!
To give you an idea of how quickly 3D printing technology is moving, in 2013 New Balance pushed the tech as far as possible at the time to create customized 3D printed cleat plates for elite athletes. Moving from a mostly rigid sheet to a highly flexible, cushioning shoe-bed in 2 years is incredible. The leap is made possible largely due to technology developed by their partner, 3D Systems. Perhaps the most notable achievement is a newly developed elastomeric powder crafted from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The powder, named DuraForm® Flex TPU, is used with a selective laser sintering (SLS) printing system to create the midsoles. SLS is a 3D printing method where a laser is used to transform a powder into a solid; the laser outlines a shape in a thin layer of powder as the heat from the laser hardens it, another thin layer of powder is then added on top and the process is repeated until an object is crafted. Head past the break for more images and a video of the shoes in motion.