The kicks won’t be entirely 3D printed, but the shoes will come with 3D-printed midsoles, the part of the shoe that sits between the inner-layer and the outside rubber to provide cushioning and support.
New Balance is working with 3D Systems to develop the shoes, with the help of 3D Systems’ elastomeric powder SLS material called DuraForm Flex TPU.
From the release:
With 3D printing, you can optimize structures to put as much or as little material precisely where you want it. This means new and organic geometries are possible through the bottom-up process of building layer-by-layer. Taking advantage of these benefits, New Balance has achieved an anatomical breakthrough in the full range of desired midsole characteristics, from flexibility and strength, to weight and durability.
In other (less buzzwordy) words, 3D printing mid-soles allows New Balance to create a number of different ‘fits’ depending on how the athlete runs, how their feet are shaped, etc. New Balance can determine which parts of the foot take the most impact during running and movement and provide extra cushioning tailored to the runner’s body.
New Balance isn’t the first company to try and use 3D printing to help build shoes. In fact, New Balance has already taken a swing at 3D printing custom shoes for professional athletes back in 2013. But this announcement marks the first mainstream shoemaker’s entrance into the world of commercially available 3D-printed shoes.
That said, don’t expect to see these anywhere until April 2016, and even then they’ll only roll out to select locations.