New Balance partners with Formlabs and Nervous System for customisable footwear

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Developed in partnership with Nervous System, New Balance is experimenting with consumer customisation apps

Following on from the unveiling of its Fuse 1 sintering machine, Formlabs has announced a partnership with global sportswear brand, New Balance, to bring 3D printing to large-scale manufacturing.

The relationship between the two Boston-based companies includes the development of footwear-specific materials, as well as printers to create products to improve athlete performance.

Continuous production using the new materials and machines is expected to begin in 2018, and will presumably be powered by Form 2 in an industrial, automated configuration called the FormCell, which links multiple Form 2 SLA machines with a robotic gantry and automated wash and cure stations.

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“New Balance is excited to work with fellow Boston-based Formlabs on our next evolution in 3D printing,” said New Balance President and CEO Rob DeMartini at the annoucement.

“We have been a leader with 3D printing technology for many years, when we were the first to bring customised spike plates to our professional runners and have expanded into other sports since then. Now we look forward to taking this technology to consumers to further improve athlete performance.”

Although designed to exaggarate the form potential, this shows how far Formlabs and New Balance have expanded their partnership, for both design tools and materials development

“We’re proud to work with New Balance to provide cutting-edge 3D printing technologies for large-scale domestic manufacturing,” said Formlabs CEO Max Lobovsky.

“3D printing gives companies the ability to provide higher performance, better fitting, and more personalised products. With New Balance, we are demonstrating that it can be done at scale for consumer goods.”

During the company’s event this week, New Balance showed off a prototype of its consumer-facing design software that mixed together configuration design with some smart geometry processing and optimisation, developed in conjunction with Nervous System, which has built a reputation for doing very interesting things with cellular-like forms in 3D printing.

This builds on previous work done back in 2015 to auto-generate mid-sole configurations based on pressure data captured from athletes.

Data visualisation of New Balance pressure data from a runner with midfoot strike