New Balance, one of the last companies still manufacturing its shoes in the United States, has announced that after years of research, they will soon be releasing a pair of shoes with 3D soles. According to the Boston Globe, the company will be selling the shoes in Boston beginning next year.
The company has been investigating the use of 3D printed technology its production for years now, and had a breakthrough via an elastomeric powder that is then turned hard by a laser. This creates the same comfort as a regular shoe. While the shoes will be more expensive, the company says that it has done extensive testing with athletes.
Perhaps more interesting and more exciting, though, is the company’s purported plans to be offering customized shoes starting 2017. Expansion of the production line of 3D printing shoes will make this possible, and the company will likely see fierce competition as other shoe manufacturers catch on to the idea. For recent generations are all about individualism, and this marketing strategy of creating your own custom fit shoe will not just be good for people’s health and athletic performance, but it will also make for a marketing campaign that plays right into the millennial mindset.
The new and unnamed series of shoes will have severely limited runs for the near term, with New Balance’s Lawrence, Mass. factory only being able to produce 8 pairs of mid-soles per day. This figure also speaks to the likely premium cost of the shoes.
New Balance has been experimenting with custom printing since at least 2013, and has also been known to develop custom spikes for professional athletes. Despite higher manufacturing costs and higher perceived cost, New Balance cleared more than $2 billion as recently as 2012. It sells its products in both its own retail outlets as well as other retailers. Select stores in Boston will be offering the new 3D printed sole shoes sometime in the next year.
3D printing in and of itself is anything but novel these days, but the technology could potentially enable companies like New Balance to custom tailor more expensive products to each consumer. This makes for much more interesting sales opportunities than previously available, and wouldn’t be possible without the help of South Carolina’s 3D Systems, which the Boston-based firm called on to help develop the new material.
Images from New Balance.