New Balance on Track for Winning the Race in Marketing 3D Printed Running Shoes

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runnerShoe lovers, hear ye! hear ye! Make way in those closets for the shoes of the future! This command may become a common one from us, too, as 3D printed shoes become so much more attractive, accessible, affordable … and most importantly, wearable. While we all love a good story as well as looking at images of 3D printed items that are sometimes way out there, it’s easy to write off many designs–especially from the haute couture or avant-garde world–as being unrealistic and never-to-be-seen gracing our closets due to price-tags and outrageous styles. The 3D printed shoe, however, is quickly morphing into something absolutely realistic, from high heels we just simply must have to those much welcomed comfy loafers.

insole-200x300And now, make a little way for getting your exercise on with the 3D printed cross-trainers too. We knew they were coming, and we’ve been waiting, following announcements from companies like Adidas and Nike, who previously wowed us with their projections for 3D printed sports shoes soon to be born. All the big guns seem to be joining in–and at this point it’s fair to say that the race is on.

We reported recently also that New Balance was getting in on the game in a collaboration with 3D Systems, offering ‘an unprecedented technical collaboration in footwear,’ according to Sean Murphy, senior manager of innovation and engineering at New Balance. Indeed, these may be the shoes to watch for now–and if you’re planning on attending CES next month in Las Vegas, you can check them out for yourself.

The International Consumer Electronics Show will have electronics freaks in a flurry as all the latest and greatest innovations are displayed in the new year–and while many new inventions are not ready for sale, New Balance states that by April, Bostonians may have the first dibs on their running shoes featuring 3D printed midsoles.

As we reported back in mid-November, New Balance has been working on these midsoles for a few years now, and the spring 2016 release has been planned for a while. The shoes’ midsoles will feature DuraForm Flex TPU elastometric powder, a specialty of 3DS, which for the New Balance running shoes should offer maximium comfort–and maximum performance for users. New Balance is promising a very lightweight product, and the shoes should be available to all later in the year.

“There is potential that printed parts could be superior to the foam parts we’re making now,” says Katherine Petrecca, general manager for studio innovation at New Balance. “But the future of on-demand manufacturing is also very attractive.”

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Photo credit: New Balance

It’s obvious that 3D printing offers an especially wide range of benefits to an industry like that of footwear. With the ability to customize and bring down price, the technology could not only transform the industry, but also the way we treat our feet–offering much greater comfort, personal style, and better performance for athletes. Greater affordability is often one of the primary benefits of 3D printing, and that should be highly emphasized in the fashion area as it offers a huge opportunity for streamlining, and speed in production.

“It does create cost savings because we’re not utilizing molds,” Petrecca says. “It saves quite a number of steps and quite a lot of time when we’re able to go from design to part in very short order.”

The competition is already hot in this market for sure as Nike and Adidas are working hard to get in on the action as soon as possible too.

nike2As we also reported in October, Nike COO Erik Sprunk was on record as saying that he sees a day ahead when consumers will be 3D printing their own running shoes.

“You know we have a huge initiative in our company called Manufacturing Revolution, it’s really just innovation in manufacturing…Do I envision a future where we might still own the file, from an IP perspective, because we want the Nike product (you can’t just have anybody make a Nike product), and you can manufacture that in your home or we will do that at our store? Oh yeah, that’s not that far away,” said Sprunk in October, being interviewed at a GeekWire Summit.

Overall, this is great news for everyone from the shoe collector to athletes truly seeking incredible performance. While customization is always a plus, the footwear industry is an area in great need of personalization, as everybody’s feet are a little different–and most of us can attest to having at least several pairs of shoes that we love to wear because of the aesthetic appeal, but we don’t enjoy the price-tags–or ensuing blisters. Having affordable and attractive shoes that also fit perfectly seems like a dream now, but it’s one that certainly seems to be coming true soon. Discuss this story in the New Balance forum thread on 3DPB.com.

[Source: Fortune]

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