3D printing is undoubtedly an exciting technology. The freedom it gives us to create incredibly complex structures and imagine a world where consumers can literally download their next sneaker offers up provocative perspective of how it may effect the entire product industry in the not so distant future.
It’s been a thought expressed by quite a few designers and developers that 3D printing may be the future of footwear manufacturing, but that it may have to applied slightly differently then it has been to this point. For example, perhaps rather then 3D printing the soles themselves, we print the moulds that make the soles, or…perhaps we 3D print the uppers.
After speaking to some friends at Nike a few months back, they assured me that they were working on something a little special. Of course, they wouldn’t tell me what exactly, but I’m assuming they were reffering to “FlyPrint”.
Many have tried, and still are, but it seems Nike has figured out a way to (atleast partially) apply 3D printing to a sneakers upper and have it directly effect the performance of a sneaker positively, which is no easy feat. Applying a 3D printed part or sole to a shoe for purely marketing purposes is easy, lots of brands have done that, but actually applying it in a way that cuts the shoes weight and allows moisture to evaporate more efficiently (the only complaint that Nike athlete, Kipchoge had about the earlier silhouette) is a pretty big step for 3D and how it relates to the performance footwear industry.
Creating mass produced 3D printed footwear is still a ways off, and really this is still something that is very specific to high perfoming athletes. The availabiltiy and cost is still something that needs to be figured out, which honestly probably makes sense for such a specialised sneaker like this for right now (I’m not sure you’d want to walk around in a PEBAX sole with a carbon fibre shank casually for too long anyway).
The speicifc advantages for athletes being that the 3D printed upper allows for quicker adaptations to be made to the upper to better fit the athletes needs, as you can tweak individual “FlyPrint” fibres to adjust fit without effecting the overall functionality of the upper. With it also being placed on top of a PEBAX midsole, offering a lighter and more energy returning sole unit, these sneakers are packed with cutting-edge material compounds and construction methods.
You can find out more about “FlyPrint” here, as well as seeing a short video and some beauty shots of some “FlyPrint” uppers applied to a few different Nike models, below.
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