Nike has made no secret of the fact that they want to be seen as leaders in innovation Their exploration of technology has led to the sports giant investing in 3D printing. With the London Marathon taking place this weekend, Nike is supporting runner Eliud Kipchoge. He will be adorning a pair of light 3D-printed trainers that have been designed so everything above the foam on the trainers is printed, while the bottom half has not been changed.
According to Wired, Nike isn’t the first sports brand to use 3D printing in the production of its running trainers. Rival adidas has committed to mass producing 3D-printed shoes this year and Brooks has allowed runners to have their feet scanned and custom shoes made. Elsewhere, Under Armour and New Balance has also dabbled with 3D-printed shoes.
When they were redesigning new trainers for Kipchoge, Nike’s designers worked with Roger Cheng, a 3D-printing expert at the sports company. “We can get down to the specific thread level and control everything: length, curvature, diameter,” Cheng said on his latest project. Bret Schoolmeester, Nike’s senior director for global running footwear added, “We’ve been using 3D printing for a variety of things at Nike for around a decade, but most heavily in prototyping.This is the first upper and the first one that will be more mass applicable.”
Using their own printer the top section of the £499 trainers is made from individually printed 3D threads. Called ‘Flyprint’ the technology the entire length of the trainer and is created through the printing technique of solid deposit modelling. The 3D-printing process sees a thermoplastic polyurethane filament be unwound from a coil, melted and layered. Cheng confessed that they can print a pair of trainers in 30 minutes, which is amazing.
As they continue to invest in 3D printing, Nike, who have so far only released a limited amount of the Flyprint trainers to the public, are now looking to work on 3D-printed trainers for everyday runners.