Sunday, March 27, 2016

3D Systems Scores a Second Big Win in the 3D-Printed Shoe Space

Today, 3D-printing changes so many aspects of our society. In the future, 3D System's SLS technology will emerge as the tech of choice for 3D-printed shoes. Under Armour used 3D Systems' selective laser-sintering technology to produce its UA Architech, the world's first performance training shoe with a 3D-printed midsole that's available to the general consumer market. Also, New Balance was working in an exclusive collaboration with 3D Systems to 3D-print an elastomeric material into a honeycomb-like structure to form midsoles for running shoes. The article discussed "why 3D Systems' SLS tech is emerging as a winner in this space" (Carter 2015).

The article discussed Under Armour's UA Architect development process, which involved studying various geometric shapes and structures in nature and architecture to develop a midsole heel design that would be best suited for such a shoe. Autodesk's software was used to generatively design the lattice midsole, which is impossible to make using conventional manufacturing techniques (Carter 2015).

The article discussed New Balance, which used 3D Systems' newly developed elastomeric powder, DuraForm Flex TPU, which was 3D-printed using SLS technology. Elastomers are polymers that are light and flexible, yet strong. The midsole was designed based on underfoot pressure data from where the runner's foot strikes the surface, with more cushioning in areas of higher-than-average pressure. This project involved collaboration among experts in running and biomechanics, plastics engineering, material development, and generative design (Carter 2015).

I think 3D-printing is important because it can revolutionize customization. "The strongest companies will be the ones that allow for their products to be the most tailored to individual consumers and their preferences" (3D Engineer). I think it 3D-printing is important because it can develop products that defy logic. For example, "[3D-printing] will combine new materials that seem magical compared to today’s manufactured products" (3D Engineer). I think 3D-printing is important because it can develop stronger materials. However, as with all new technologies, manufacturing jobs will decrease. This disadvantage will have a large impact to the economies of third world countries that depend on a large number of low skill jobs. Also, 3D printing of products in mixed materials and technology are still under development (Phil for Humanity).

I think the article dealt with all important advantages of 3D-printing. The article discussed how 3D System's SLS technology will emerge as the tech of choice for 3D-printed shoes. Also, the article discussed why 3D Systems' SLS tech is emerging as a winner in this space. However, the article didn't discuss fewer manufacturing jobs, or limited materials. 3D-priniting is a complex, dynamic process. So, 3D-printing isn't as realistic and functional as raw materials. Also, I think 3D-printing helps Under Armour and New Balance better understand, not completely understand their customers's needs and wants.

"The Pros and Cons of 3D Printing." Phil for Humanity. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
"10 Ways That 3D Printing Will Change Our Lives - 3D Engineer." 3D Engineer. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
Carter, Noelle. "The Future of Printed Food: 3DS Culinary Lab Opens in Los Angeles." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.

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