We first discussed 3D printed shoes over 2 years ago, when London designer and researcher Shamees Aden introduced a self-healing running shoe at the Wearable Futures conference. Then, just last December, we mentioned that New Balance partnered up with 3D design studio Nervous System to begin prototyping a 3D printed shoe.
Although the self-healing 3D printed shoe we mentioned in 2013 is still pretty far from reality, New Balance’s partnership with Nervous System paid off earlier this week when New Balance announced it was releasing its first ever 3D printed running shoe, the New Balance Zante Generate.
According to 3Dprint.com, the New Balance Zante Generate is the first 3D printed running shoe to ever be made commercially available. Don’t get too excited, though–New Balance is only releasing 44 pairs of the shoe. Still, this is an exciting step forward for something we’ve been talking about for quite some time now.
As you can probably see from the photo, the whole shoe isn’t 3D printed. Rather, its midsole is “entirely printed using a selecting laser sintering process,” and the upper half is made of traditional materials. As it turns out, the honeycomb structure used in the midsole would be impossible to create using traditional manufacturing processes.
And, if you think the Zante Generate would be made more quickly because it’s 3D printed–well, think again. The 3D printing takes several hours to complete, then each print needs to be cleaned up before being sent off for assembling and finishing. The end result looks just like the shoes you see in our lead image here.
The Zante Generate is extremely limited–like we said, they only made 44 pairs–but is an exciting step forward for 3D printed shoes. With this shoe going from concept to reality in a matter of just a few months, it’s exciting to think about what could happen moving forward. Imagine being able to 3D print your own custom shoes in a shoe store and walking out with them minutes later! We may be far away from that becoming a reality, but as New Balance has shown with their new shoe, it really seems like anything is possible these days.
Photo credit: New Balance via 3Dprint.com