written by Brett Hershman
The Dawn of a New Era?
It might not have been obvious to the fans at Global Life Park, but there was something different about Indians’ ace Corey Kluber when he took the mound on Opening Night against the Rangers. The difference was in his cleats, and Kluber himself was certainly aware of it.
In what might later be viewed as a benchmark in the evolution of 3D printer technology, Kluber pitched six innings wearing 3D printed plates inside of his cleats. And while his performance might not have been up to his Cy Young standards, Kluber still became the first Major League Baseball player to use this 3D technology under actual game conditions.
A Moment Many Years in the Making
Whether they’re playing in the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the sandlot, athletes are constantly trying to gain a competitive edge through their equipment. And because of the pioneering work of New Balance engineers, they might soon have another weapon in their arsenal.
Several years ago, the shoe brand began work on developing a 3D plate that was specially designed for baseball pitchers. After approaching Kluber with ideas on how the technology could improve his mechanics, the New Balance team began working with him closely to develop the ideal plate for his pitching motion.
After collecting mountains of bio-mechanical data and studying Kluber’s delivery, they concluded that the Indians star needed supporting in two basic areas. The first was in the heel of his back foot, the second along the landing surface of his front foot.
New Balance used 3D printers to construct plates that would provide support in precisely these areas. Once the prototypes were used in spring training conditions, they refined the plates in successive models. They eventually arrived at a structure that was designed to prevent his plant foot from twisting and his front foot from slipping during follow through.
The driving idea behind Kluber’s 3D plate was to allow him to have the same delivery with each pitch. Facilitating this level of consistency required a plate that was custom designed to fit Kluber’s unique foot structure and delivery.
New Balance sees 3D printer technology as a big part of Major League Baseball’s future. They foresee a game in which each player wears plates that are specifically designed for the demands of their position. Only the nearly miraculous precision of 3D printer technology can hope to answer these demands.
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