Under Armour's 3D-printed shoes bring computer designer to heel

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Under Armour's Architect trainers featuring a 3D-printed midsole will be available as a limited edition offering

Under Armour's Architect trainers featuring a 3D-printed midsole will be available as a limited edition offering. View gallery (15 images)

3D printing is being increasingly adopted by sportswear companies as a means of producing shoes that are lighter and custom molded for a snug fit. Like Nike, Adidas and New Balance before it, Under Armour has now launched a new trainer produced with the help of 3D printing technology. But the use of advanced technology doesn't stop there, with the shoe's latticed midsole dreamt up not by one of the company's designers, but by some pretty imaginative computer software instead.

Under Armour's new Architect multipurpose trainers are aimed at athletes taking part in a range of exercises, with the intention of saving them the trouble of switching shoes. So to come up with shoe design that would provide cushioning and support through different workouts, Under Armour enlisted the help of Autodesk's generative design software, Autodesk Within.

Launched early last year, Autodesk Within relies on the immense processing power of today's computers to crunch through one complex algorithm after another until it arrives at the optimal design for a desired product. Users begin by entering a bunch of parameters, such as the required maximum stress, weight, flexibility and durability and then let the software go to work.

The software runs through concept after concept, discarding undesirable outcomes and learning from the promising ones until it spits out what it deems to be the best possible design. This same software has already been used to generatively design a 3D-printed bridge set to be built in Amsterdam, and Autodesk touts its potential for use in medical implants as well.

The result in this case was a latticed, 3D-printed midsole fitted to a shoe that Under Armor claims provides athletes with the "ultimate stability and cushioning." But if you're assuming that outsourcing part of the design work to a computer would help keep costs low, then you might be a little disappointed.

Under Armour's US$300 Architect trainers will be available as a limited edition offering, with 96 pairs going on sale on March 18 through Under Armour's website and at its corporate headquarters in Baltimore.

Source: Under Armour

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