This week, shoes manufacturer Nike has come up with its brand new running shoes Nike Vapor HyperAgility Cleat. These shoes are not just running shoes, as they actually enable athletes to run faster on turf and change direction more quickly. Nike has been using 3D printing techniques in order to speed up the process of creating the shoes.
It’s not the first time Nike has been using 3D printing techniques, as the brand has already used the technique for the 3D plate construction of its 2013 shoes Nike Vapor Laser Talon Cleat, the prototypes of its 2013 LeBron X Shoes and the 3D printed Nike Vapor Carbon 2014 Elite Cleat, which was unveiled last month. The brand has used Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology to produce its 3D printed cleat plate. Using SLS, the company is able to work with high-powered lasers in order to to make adjustments to its shoes in a couple of hours, while in the past making updates would cost the company months.
It results in running shoes which are capable of enabling athletes to run in a quicker way and to reduce speed and change direction on a more flexible level, using so-called Nike Flywire cables.
Nike is surely not the only shoes company to experiment with 3D printing techniques. In January for instance, other giant shoes manufacturer Adidas set up a massive shoebox in London in which lace locks for shoes were printed. Two 3D Systems Cube printers were used in order to print out personalized lace locks for customers to finish their shoes in a creative way.
Just like Nike, Adidas has found out that the technique of 3D printing has become something really important. The big shoes brand is using 3D printers to speed up its work massively. The loss of required technicians illustrates this perfectly, as the brand once needed as many as twelve technicians to create its prototypes. Using 3D printing techniques, no more than two people are needed. It saves the brand four to six weeks to evaluate a new prototype, as it now only needs one or two days in total.
Also if we take a look at the broader field of fashion, 3D printing is surely gaining ground. A lot of companies are currently experimenting with the concept of printing clothes. There are companies that can print out personalized jewelry, such as Hot Pop Factory and Dutch company Zazzy. This last company is currently helping Dutch department store Hema to become the first grant retailer to set up an online service where customers can create their self-customized necklaces and bracelets.
Another company from San Francisco called Continuum, offers the possibility for customers to design their own bikinis on the website. After creating the bikinis, the 3D files will be sent to the company, after which a 3D printer will print out the fashion item and ship the bikini to the customer’s address. To cut a long story short: 3D printing enables common people to design their own fashion accessories.
As a result of these new possibilities, fashion designers are experimenting with the technique. For instance, last year’s Project Runway contender Justin LeBlanc used 3D printing to create a series of garments, accentuated by belts and neckpieces in the shape of concentric circles. In addition, chic women’s clothing brand Victoria’s Secret has been working together with Shapeways to use 3D printing in order to design wings for one of the brand’s models during a launch event. “The great thing about 3D printing is making something really intricate and complex,” Shapeways architect Duann Scott said to VentureBeat. “There’s no additional work or cost involved than producing something simple.”
3D printing has the ability to speed up – and take over – a lot of work in the field of fashion and the possible impacts could be enormous, meaning we will be less dependent on manual labour in countries such as Bangladesh for our clothes. In order to achieve such a thing, the next thing to happen is finding an easy way to weave more cotton fibers into the process of 3D printing.
Earlier this month, crowdsourcing organization InnoCentive has set up a challenge for people to come up with the best idea to do such a thing, offering a price of as much as 7000 dollars for the best idea. The challenge is not yet open anymore, and the website states that it’s is currently “under evaluation”.
We are curious about the technical results of the competition. Will it be worth the 7000 dollars? It’s surely something to be continued.
Credits images: Nike.