What’s the only thing more impressively fast than a 21st century athlete armed with a pair of the latest footwear from Nike or Adidas? The prototype creation of said footwear. Through the use of 3D printing technology, models that once required 4-6 weeks to produce now can be finished in 48 hours. Moreover, the souped up technology also cuts down on the manpower required to design the prototypes. Before, supervision meant a dozen technicians working by hand. With a 3D printer in the mix, two people – at most – can handle the gig.
While a slew of shoe technicians are undoubtedly less than thrilled to see technology threaten their livelihood, the ability to drastically streamline Points A and Z is undoubtedly beneficial. Take, for example, the new Nike Vapor Leash Talon. This bad boy was designed, according to the Swoosh, to “help the nation’s top football athletes maintain their drive stance longer as they train for and compete in the 40-yard dash.” Similarly, 3D printing also helps decrease time on the clock.
As Nike innovation director Shane Kohatsu told the Financial Times, “Within six months we were able to go through 12 rounds of prototype iterations that we fully tested, and ultimately we were able to make super dramatic improvements to our products.”
Just like Nuprin in the 80s, these shoes will blow you away for being so little, yellow, different and better. Not to mention for being so quickly stocked on the shelves of your nearest sporting good store.
As for producing an actual shoe through 3D printing, we’re not there … yet. Fittingly (if ironically) the issue is inferior speed. As Bruce Bradshaw, Director of Marketing at Stratasys informed the Financial Times, just the sole of a shoe would currently require two hours if created by a 3D printer. But like most objectives armed with technology, money and a rabid block of consumers, the wall will inevitably be scaled.
“Will they get there?” mused Bradshaw. “Absolutely.”