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3D Printers Take Shoe Designing to a Whole New Level

new balance shoeRemember these shoes from way back when? The idea was to create shoes that can heal themselves overnight using 3D printed protocell molecules. Last we checked, they’re still working on those.

But have no fear—there is still some good news when it comes to shoes and 3D printing. The popular footwear company New Balance is going all in with 3D printing and design, announcing that they are equipping their new running shoe line with 3D printed midsoles. This comes on the heels of their competitor Adidas announcing their own 3D printed Futurecraft insoles. It seems 3D printed shoes are going to be the next big thing in footwear!

New Balance announced their partnership with Massachusetts-based 3D design studio Nervous System, which used performance capture data from various runners to help perfect the 3D design of the New Balance midsole. “New Balance came to us with a problem,” says a representative from Nervous System. “They wanted to improve the design and creation of their 3D-printed midsoles to better adapt to performance data from runners.”

According to 3D Printing, a number of sensor-based experiments with New Balance’s 3D printed midsoles were conducted at Nervous System’s Sports Research Lab. The sensor system was used to record the force of the runner’s foot as it both hits and pushes off of the ground. The team was then able to 3D print an optimized, supportive midsole, allowing runners to rest their feet comfortably while running around.

The complex and enhanced design that Nervous System put together is as aesthetically pleasing as it is structurally sound. But believe it or not, the intriguing design actually complements the foot support, containing more tightly knitted holes in the areas of the foot that need more support than others (such as the ball or heel of the foot).

Sean Murphy, a senior manager of innovation and engineering at New Balance, had this to say about the project: “To deliver this level of performance with a 3D-printed component, we paired experts in running and biomechanics with leaders in plastics engineering, material development, and generative design. These are the types of collaborations that will drive footwear design and manufacturing in the future.”

Looking at these shoes, it’s hard to argue that they aren’t the stuff of the future. And now that giant retail chains like New Balance and Adidas are getting in on the action, it won’t be long before 3D printers are going to become staples of the future economy here at home. Just you watch—it’s coming sooner than you think!

Photo credit: Adidas via Nervous System 

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