New Balance uses 3D-printed soles in latest shoe designs

New Balance is turning to new technology for its latest sneaker designs.

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The Boston-based shoemaker is using 3D-printed soles for two new models, it announced on Friday. The 3D-printed components should perform similarly to traditional show cushioning, but be lighter and could later lead to bigger changes in how New Balance's shoes are made.

The company partnered with Formlabs, a 3D printing technology company, to develop a new propriety photopolymer resin material for the “TripleCell” soles. The material “is designed to create springy, resilient lattice structures with the durability, reliability and longevity expected from an injection molded thermoplastic,” according to New Balance.

Katherine Petrecca, New Balance’s general manager, said the technology is being added in the company’s American factories.

“We’re really going to be able to disrupt the industry not only in performance but also in athlete customization and speed to market,” she said.

David Lakatos, chief product officer at Formlabs, said 3D printing will allow New Balance to cut down development time “from months to hours.”

“We’re moving towards a world where design cycles are closing in on the whim of the consumer and it’s exciting to be on the frontlines of this with New Balance,” he said.

The technology could lead to on-demand and regional manufacturing that New Balance said will reduce its lead times and shipping costs. The 3D-printed components can be shaped more precisely than foam, potentially allowing one day for custom shoes to be made on a person-by-person basis.

“The future of additive manufacturing is really the ability to create high-performance parts for athletes, to be able to manufacture on demand and really be able to customize for the individual athletes’ biomechanics,” Petrecca said.

One model featuring the 3D-printed parts, the 990 Sport, went on sale Friday for $185. New Balance said it’s 10 percent lighter than its similar 990v5 model. The shoes are made in the U.S.


Another model with 3D-printed parts, the FuelCell Echo, will be assembled in the U.S. and is due to go on sale Sept. 15 for $175.