Sneakers’ Soles: When 3D Printing Impacts Sports

New, Lighter, Faster Sneakers

Boston-based New Balance Athletics, best known as New Balance, is one of the world’s major sports footwear and apparel manufacturers. This midyear the brand had a major win when Toronto Raptors won the NBA title over the heavily-favored Golden State Warriors. The company has just embraced 3D printing and is making a big technology shift in the production process for their new sneaker designs.

Also Boston-based, Formlabs, a 3D printing company, went into an exclusive alliance with New Balance in 2017 to develop high performance materials and hardware for the manufacturing process for their athletic footwear. The new platform will use 3D printing technology that will bring performance cushioning to the next level. The new 990 Sport Shoe will use this technology and will debut soon. A second shoe printed with 3D printing, called the FuelCell Echo, will hit the market in September. Both shoes will feature TripleCell technology and will retail for $185 and $175 respectively.

The premium technology platform is called TripleCell, only from New Balance powered by Formlabs 3D printers and uses a completely new material, called Rebound Resin. The material is a new proprietary photopolymer resin, designed to create springy, resilient lattice structures with the durability, reliability, and longevity expected from an injection molded thermoplastic. 3D printing technology has eliminated the dependence on molds and direct printing for both prototyping and production. It enabled the development and production cycles to shift from months to hours.

The new technology is now scaling exclusively within all New Balance factories in the U.S. increasing efficiency, facilitating on-demand and regionally-based manufacturing, reducing the lead time needed for a product, lowering shipping costs by being able to produce in a variety of locations to better suit their global demand. They can also customize on an order-by-order basis if desired.

TripleCell technology in the heel seamlessly delivers a 10% lighter cushioning experience than the classic style and maintains the Made in the USA designation. Then they designed the forefoot of the FuelCell Echo based on the growing focus of forefoot technology. The 990 Sport with TripleCell is Made in the USA at the New Balance Lawrence factory and the FuelCell Echo with TripleCell is assembled in the USA. Additive manufacturing’s future is really the ability to create high-performance parts for athletes, manufacture on demand and really be able to customize for the individual athletes’ biomechanics.

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For Better Athletic Performance

Looking forward to better athletic performance gear where 3D printing is able to produce and manufacture sleeker, lighter and faster footwear.