As 3D-printing technology matures, it’s becoming useful for more than just making plastic weapons and trinkets. New Balance is the latest shoe manufacturer to use 3D printers to create footwear for professional athletes, highly customised to their specific needs.
Using a printing process known as selective laser sintering — where plastic powder is hardened layer-by-layer instead of an extrusion process — New Balance can create a spike plate that’s lightweight but also caters to how an athlete runs. The design process for each plate involves analysing biomechanical data for each athlete that’s collected using sensor-laden shoes and motion capture technology.
It might seem like overkill, but all this data allows the custom plates to perfectly support a runner’s foot while they compete, which can in turn vastly improve their performance.