When it comes to recent trends within the fashion industry, no one field has been as heavily invested in 3D printing as footwear has. From major companies crafting their newest shoes with 3D printed midsoles to orthotic-driven startups such as Wiivv Wearables and SOLS providing custom-designed and printed insoles, the influence of 3D printing has been spreading across footwear design and manufacturing for quite some time now. The sportswear company New Balance is certainly no stranger to this influence, having announced last November that 3D printed midsoles will be implemented into the design of their newest running shoe.
Since that time, New Balance has collaborated with 3D Systems to help manufacture the 3D printed midsole, and has also worked with Massachusetts-based 3D design studio Nervous System for help with the 3D modeling process. To further prove New Balance’s dedication to emerging technologies such as 3D printing, the sportswear company has recently started a Digital Sport division, which will focus primarily on utilizing tech to create cutting-edge athletic products. “Some of our competitors have either made acquisitions in the space, or they’ve built up these sizable teams to support this activity,”said New Balance CEO Rob DeMartini. “Because of our partner approach, we’ve been able to remain focused on what we’re great at, and they’ve been able to focus on what they’re great at. Those two things … allow us to get products to market faster.”
New Balance CEO Rob DeMartini and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich on stage at CES 2016
And, it turns out that the collaborative process on New Balance’s 3D printed midsoles isn’t necessarily finished yet, either. This last Tuesday at CES 2016, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich walked onto the stage to announce a new partnership with New Balance to create a sports-based smartwatch. Krazanich strutted out with New Balance’s 3D printed midsoles underneath his feet, which were custom-fitted for the CEO’s walking style, thanks to image capturing from Intel’s RealSense 3D Camera. For those unfamiliar with Intel’s RealSense Camera, it’s a depth-sensing camera with three lenses, which gives it the ability to measure and capture distance between photographed objects. And, if you aren’t familiar with it, you will be, as it makes its way into numerous devices this year – including, a Smartphone Developer’s Kit utilizing Project Tango.
Unfortunately for now, it seems that this integration of the RealSense Camera won’t actually make it to the retail version of New Balance’s new running shoe, Engadget reports that“neither company has expressed a desire to bring this sort of tech to retail, but it’s certainly something that’s possible to create in the future.” Customizing their 3D printed midsoles for each individual consumer would obviously be a meticulous and costly task for New Balance, as it would be much easier for them to just mass produce the running shoe with a default designed midsole. But at the very least, this recent news proves that New Balance is becoming a clear front-runner in the race to implement digital technology into the creation of cutting-edge athletic gear.