To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Under Armour’s rolling out the Architech. It's a shoe with something new: A 3D-printed midsole.
It’s the red bit.
From Footwear News
This marks the first time 3D printing has been used to make any part of a performance shoe.
“But just the midsole?” I hear you think.
“The midsole’s the most important part of an athletic shoe,” I could answer. In their words, it provides a “dynamic stability platform” that uses “energy returning foams.”
From Footwear News
...But no. For our purposes, the midsole itself isn’t that important. In fact, it’s not clear whether 3d printing was even required to create it, or whether they could have made an identical one with traditional methods. You’re also not likely to ever try it yourself: they’re only making 95 pairs of Architechs, and selling each one for $300.
So, why’s this even worth writing about? Because, like the Large Hadron Collider, it’s one of those technologies that’s more exciting for the possibilities it opens up than its present use.
First off, it’s a great leap forward for generative design: that midsole was created by an algorithm, not an engineer. Remember my article from last year on how using computers to generate fonts might change the face of typography? I didn’t think so, but this is the same principle: it’s been used in art, electronic music, and architecture since the technology was developed, but it’s new to the world of household objects.
It’s also a huge leap forward for shoe design, since it makes prototypes a snap. Instead of having to make a steel mold and inject thermoplastics into it, sneaker companies can 3d print the design straight from the computer it was made on. Mass-producing 3d printed objects is still impractical—the reason Under Armor’s making so few is because they have to print each one out at their headquarters—but the combination of generative design and 3d printing might just revolutionize the world of custom design.
...And also to make things like this.
Nike patented a variant of the technology last October, and is taking it a step further, testing out booths in their stores where they’ll do the same for shoppers on the spot. And it could soon change the future of pro sports: Under Armor wants to start scanning athletes’ feet to create the perfect shoes for their size, shape, and arch.