The application of 3D printing is becoming increasingly dominant in the sports footwear industry. From Reebok’s Liquid Factory manufacturing process to Carbon’s partnership with adidas on the mass manufacture of a 3D printed midsole, the giants of the footwear world are investing heavily in 3D technologies.
One of the first companies on board was New Balance. The Boston-founded company first unveiled its Zante Generate shoe with 3D printed midsole in partnership with 3D Systems in 2016 and has since formed a manufacturing partnership with fellow Boston-based 3D printing company, Formlabs. Now UK sieving and filtration equipment manufacturer, Russell Finex has revealed how it has become an integral part of New Balance’s 3D additive manufacturing lab.
Shifting its focus from small batch work to larger levels of production, New Balance installed a Russell Compact Sieve with Vibrasonic Deblinding System to increase throughput and ensure purity of processed powders for its Zante Generate midsole manufactured with laser sintering in Duraform TPU Elastomer.
Daniel Dempsey, New Balance Senior Additive Manufacturing Engineer, commented: “To sieve 20kg of material using our previous equipment would take approximately eight hours. With the Russell Finex sieve, we can do the same amount in roughly ten minutes.”
For New Balance, using this industrial screener is critical to aerate powders before the material is loaded to a laser sintering machine. Aerating powder increases the flowability of the material, which is required for stable processing of prints running over 24 hours in duration. The system is said to screen powders much faster than traditional all-day monitored sieves and as a result, is allowing the engineering team to spend time experimenting with powder and complete custom batch work.
Dempsey continued, “I’ve never had to do a single thing with this machine other than use and clean it. It’s fantastic. The system allows us to speed up the sieving process, and we’ve drastically increased our ability to iterate or prototype within the company due to prototyping the article directly and skipping a couple of rounds of injection moulding before commercialisation.
“If you think about how that affects things like time to market or the product quality, the more iteration you can do the better product you’re going to end up with.”