What Under Armour's New 3-D-Printed Shoe Reveals About The Future Of Footwear

date:30.03.2016 by:YDL News Team,

What Under Armour's New 3-D-Printed Shoe Reveals About The Future Of Footwear

date: 25.03.2016 by: Diana Arhir via FastCodesign,  image credits with courtesy of the FastCodesign




Right now, whether you're buying cheap Keds or high-end Nike sneakers, all shoes are made in pretty much the same way. First, the parts of a shoe are cut by steel dies on a hydraulic press, which almost functions like a cookie cutter. More elaborate sneaker parts, like the soles, are produced in molds. After all of the parts of a sneaker have been created, they are then stitched together on an assembly line, piece by piece. It's a process that works well, tens of millions of times a year. But it doesn't allow for customization. The sneaker manufacturing process treats every foot as if it's more or less the same.

That's why shoemakers are so excited about 3-D printing. It doesn't really make sense to 3-D print an entire shoe—that's too expensive—but even just 3-D printing the sole could, in theory, allow shoemakers to customize each sneaker to its wearer's foot.

Wisely, then, Under Armour's new Architechs don't try to 3-D print the whole shoe. Instead, their new strength trainers—which are designed to keep athletes stable as they lift weights in the gym—are mostly assembled conventionally, except for the 3-D-printed midsoles.Even so, Under Armour admits it just isn't ready to mass-manufacture these: Each of the 96 pairs of Architechs have been assembled at UA's Baltimore innovation lab. And the midsoles aren't being individually customized either. Under Armour, which is selling the Architechs for $300 a pair, wouldn't even tell me if they were making a profit on the Architechs. "It's definitely a different cost structure," says Under Armour's VP of training footwear, Chris Lindgren.

The Architechs, then, are essentially a statement shoe. "We're trying to dip our toe in the water, not in level of commitment to the technology, but to see how consumers react, and what we can learn from them," Lindgren says. "There are other ways to make shoes like this, including very expensive molding, but we think 3-D printing is going to fundamentally change the manufacturing model."

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