Nike was just granted a key patent for 3D printed shoe technology

nike patents 3d printed shoe technology vapor leash talon 15
As additive manufacturing (otherwise known as 3D printing) becomes ever more advanced, more and more industries are beginning to embrace it — and the footwear industry is no exception. Just yesterday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted Nike a major patent for technology associated with 3D printing shoes.

The patent, filed back in September 2012, is specifically for “automated strobel printing.” The strobel is one way a shoe can be “lasted” — affixing the shoe’s upper to its midsole. There are typically three types of lastings: slip, strobel, and combination. Nike’s patent calls for a machine to scan the design into a computer, and based on the data,  print sewing guidelines on the strobel. Nike’s increasingly popular Flynit athletic shoe line primarily uses strobel.

The 3D printing technology patented by Nike wouldn’t fundamentally change how the company makes shoes. Rather, it would merely update and modernize the process in which it does so. In the patent application, Nike explains that due to improvements in technology, “the number of shoe pieces being added has increased, requiring increasingly complicated manufacturing steps to produce shoes.” 3D printing would reduce human labor for Nike, but the company is nowhere near a world where it could completely eliminate it. The shoe’s upper still needs to be attached to the midsole strobel, a process Nike admits is “beyond the scope” of their patent.

This recent development comes a week after Nike’s chief operating officer, Erick Sprunk informed the attendants at GeekWire Summit 2015 that consumers will one day be able to buy a shoe design file from Nike and 3D print the shoe themselves. This patent could also help Nike stifle its competitors’ innovations. Last week, Adidas announced the concept model of the Futurecraft 3D: the company’s first foray into 3D printed shoes. While Adidas’ Futuercraft 3D would involve 3D printing the shoe’s midsole, Nike may have just patented one of the best ways for Adidas to attach that midsole to the shoe’s upper.

The manufacturing power of shoes is slowly shifting to the consumer. The next question is: how much will these 3D printed shoes cost?

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Embrace your inner Dr. Frankenstein with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and this cool app

Ever wanted to make your favorite toy come alive? If so, and you have a Huawei Mate 20 Pro, then you need to grab the 3D Live Maker app and try out some augmented reality magic. Here's how to use it.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.
Emerging Tech

World’s biggest fleet of campus delivery robots now transporting student meals

The world’s largest fleet of delivery robots on a university campus is coming to Fairfax County, Virginia’s George Mason University. Here's how the ordering and delivery process plays out.