Check out New Balance’s use of 3D printing to customize high performance products for athletes. Utilizing a proprietary process, the brand is able to produce spike plates customized to the individual needs and desires of their elite athletes. At the New Balance Games in January 2013, Team New Balance athlete, Jack Bolas, became the first ever track athlete to compete in customized, 3D printed plates.
The 3D printing process requires race simulation biomechanical data which the New Balance Sports Research Lab collects using a force plate, in-shoe sensors and a motion capture system. Advanced algorithms and software are then applied to translate this data into custom 3D printed spike designs.
For the production of the custom plates, New Balance uses selective laser sintering (SLS) to convert powder materials into solid cross-sections, layer by layer using a laser. SLS printing enables the customization process by allowing for complex designs that could not be achieved through traditional manufacturing methods. Additionally, SLS printing greatly accelerates the turnaround time from design to functional part.
In addition to printing semi-rigid parts like spike plates for track runners, New Balance is working on softer SLS printed components that mimic the cushioning properties of foam midsoles. This initiative will be critical to bringing the customization process to a broader audience of athletes.
“With 3D printing we are able to pursue performance customization at a new level to help our elite NB athletes and eventually all athletes. We believe this is the future of performance footwear and we are excited to bring this to consumers,” says New Balance President and CEO Robert DeMartini.