Under Armour Is Developing Its Own 3D Printed Shoe

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Twitter’s recent change to an algorithmic-based timeline may not be your idea of ingenuity, but algorithms are literally changing the way Under Armor does athletic clothing.

The sportswear company is teaming up with AutoDesk to develop a new pair of shoes that are made by way of 3D printing. Known formally as the UA Architech, the footwear was created using an algorithmic system driven by desired criteria designs, or generative design. The equation considers factors like durability, flexibility and weight when physically constructing the concept.

Under Amrour turned to AutoDesk to help them execute the perfect combination of lightweight and supportive, as well as comfortable and durable for their lattice midsole structure.

3D printed elements are also present in the shoes’ heels and upper area to aid in the shoes adapted fit.

According to a Daily Dot interview with AutoDesk’s senior director of design research Mark Davis, the largest issue in bringing the concept to life was the midsole structure’s complexity.

“Traditional manufacturing processes like injection molding typically don’t work well for the complex structures that come out of a generative design,” Davis said. 3D printing does give more flexibility to produce shoes that benefit from the lattice—in this case it provides greater stability and cushioning than conventional designs.”

While the UA Architech is the first commercially available 3D printed footwear, it’s not the first time 3D printing has been used with athletic trainers. New Balance created the first 3D printed running shoe, which was released last November after Adidas revealed its own 3D printed midsole. The technology has been used since 2013 by Nike, who created a set of 3D cleats for football players.

3D printed elements are found not just in the midsole—they also appear in the heel and the upper area of the shoe, where the “Clutchfit Auxetic” design is adapted to the shape and movement of the wearer to provide a precise fit.

What makes Under Armour’s new shoes so significant, though, is the new precedent they set for shoe personalization and the potential for a true custom fit for each individual athlete.

Under Armour’s new shoes, especially when considered in tandem with the extraordinarily popular AutoDesk software used to help create them, present new possibilities for the future of footwear. The possibility for true personalization—not just picking out the size and color of a shoe, but getting a real, custom fit—could provide new value to athletes of all experience levels.

“One of the real benefits of 3D printing is that it will allow for an era of mass customization,” Davis said told The Daily Dot. “Meaning that every individual consumer could have a custom designed shoe just for them, based on their height, weight, athletic needs.”

Click here for some more features we’ve written on other sweet 3D printed things.