Under Armour Implements Autodesk’s Generative Design to Engineer the Perfect 3D-Printed Shoe
Roopinder Tara posted on March 24, 2016 |
To design their partially 3D-printed UA Architechtraining shoes, Under Armour made use of generative...

Compared to the other giants in the athletic wear market, Under Armour is relatively new, launching out of Baltimore, Maryland only 20 years ago. However, the young sports apparel manufacturer has quickly grown into an international billion-dollar company. This year, Under Armour is celebrating its 20th anniversary in style with a limited edition pair of multi-purpose training shoes, dubbed the UA Architech line. These are no ordinary sneakers, however; the UA Architech trainers were created with a heavy dose of generative design and 3D printing.

The UA Architech: Under Armour’s first pair of shoes featuring 3D-printed components. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
The UA Architech: Under Armour’s first pair of shoes featuring 3D-printed components. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

At first glance, you’ll catch something unique about the UA Architech line, specifically in the midsole. That’s the distinctive look of 3D printing. The interlocking lattice structure of the midsole was produced using selective laser sintering (SLS), performed at Under Armour’s own lab in Baltimore. While 3D printing is the only technology capable of producing such a structure with ease and minimal waste, the design of the midsole itself was made possible thanks to Autodesk Within, a newly-released software from Autodesk that is capable of goal-oriented, generative design.


Using Autodesk Within, Under Armour designers were able to generate interlocking lattice structures capable of providing both bounce and support. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Using Autodesk Within, Under Armour designers were able to generate interlocking lattice structures capable of providing both bounce and support. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

The Within software opened up an entirely new range of design possibilities for the UA Innovation Team for the creation of lightweight, stable and cushioned footwear. The Within process usually begins with importing a traditional CAD file. After inputting various parameters—such as durability, flexibility or weight requirements—the software will then generate internal lattice structures and surface skins with varying densities to meet these design objectives. Relying on cloud computing, Within has the ability to generate countless models with built-in design optimization, so that the user can select the one that best serves the task at hand and meets the desired aesthetic.

Design optimization is an active field of study in CAD/3D printing at the moment. By performing simulations on designs and seeing where the forces are acting, any extra materials can be removed from the design, allowing the forces to be transmitted through the optimal path. This allows for lightweight and sturdy designs that have applications in a wide range of industries, from footwear to aerospace.

The UA Architech shoes feature 3D-printed midsoles using selective laser sintering (SLS) technology. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
The UA Architech shoes feature 3D-printed midsoles using selective laser sintering (SLS) technology. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

In the case of the UA Architech, the software was able to generate a structure capable of bouncing energy back as weight is pressed down onto the midsole, while also providing structural stability, resulting in a shoe design that is equally ideal for weightlifting and CrossFit training, according to Alan Guyan, senior innovation design manager of at Under Armour.

The Architech may not be the first shoe series to make use of 3D printing for the end product, as brands such as Nike, Adidas and New Balance are already in the race for 3D printed shoes, but it is the first such line to actually make it to market, though in limited supply. Under Armour is only selling 96 pairs of Architech trainers, priced at $300 each. Perhaps by implementing mass 3D printing technology from TNO in the Netherlands or Xaar in the UK, the sportswear manufacturer will be able to get these shoes onto the feet of even more athletes in the future.

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