UA Opens R&D Facility with 3D Printing & 3D Scanning for Custom Athletic Wear
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 29, 2016 |
Under Armour has cut the ribbon the UA Lighthouse, a center dedicated to testing and developing new ...

Earlier this year, athletic wear manufacturer Under Armour (UA)  its limited-edition UA Architech line of shoes, featuring 3D-printed midsoles designed with the help of generative design software Autodesk Within. Not that the company needed to prove its tech-savviness, but the shoes demonstrate that the company is hip to new trends within the footwear industry, such as 3D-printed soles and other components.

As it turns out, the UA Architect line was just a harbinger of things to come, as UA has since announced the establishment of a 35,000-square-foot facility in South Baltimore’s City Garage, where the company will develop new products and manufacturing processes.

The UA Lighthouse, as it is called, will feature a number of specialized technologies, including 3D printing and 3D scanning, to allow the Baltimore-based company to innovate within the athletic wear market. Once perfected at the site, these innovations will be expanded into the greater UA product line and supply chain.

At an opening ceremony for the facility, Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of UA, described the mission of the UA Lighthouse: “As Under Armour celebrates 20 years in business, we are committed, more than ever, to driving global innovation and continuing to expand our global headquarters in our great hometown of Baltimore, Md., USA. The UA Lighthouse will serve as a beacon to make products better, faster and more efficiently, ultimately solving real problems for athletes and making them better around the world.”

The UA Lighthouse will feature full-body 3D scanning from 3dMD. (Image courtesy of UA.)
The UA Lighthouse will feature full-body 3D scanning from 3dMD. (Image courtesy of UA.)

At the UA Lighthouse, UA will use body scanning and 3D design technologies to explore the ability to create custom footwear and clothes, with a goal of ultimately reducing waste when developing products. 3D printing and other rapid prototyping systems, including a 5-axis simultaneous machining center, will allow the company to prototype items in-house.

Pilot products will also be tested at the site before they are potentially sent to the mass manufacturing stage. To bring the facility to life, UA partnered with several organizations, such as Dow Chemical, Siemens, Epson, Huntsman, 3dMD, the engineering department at the University of Maryland, Lectra, Bemis and others.

The combination of 3D scanning and 3D printing for retail is a natural one. Several companies are in the process of relying on the two technologies to manufacture custom footwear, such as Feetz and Wiivv Wearables.

At the moment, these firms may be far from large-scale manufacturing, but, if UA can learn to scale these technologies to the level where custom goods can be sold in retail locations or online, it would be able to establish itself as a leader in the mass customization space that some see as an eventuality.

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