Talk to any industry savvy footwear designer or developer, and they’ll tell you they’ve looked at a Nike shoe atleast once in their career and wondered how the f*ck they’ve managed to develop it. From beautiful detailing, to intrictae moulding techniques, Nike’s bar for product execution is very high.
One of the more famous Nike product executions/innovations would of course be the Air unit, particularly when it became a visible part of the sole.
Given that it’s “Air Max Day”, they recently shared some insight into some of their most creative Air Max Design and Manufacturing Solutions, from Split-Seam construction, to Blow Moulding and “OSP” (Outer Swept Pinch) – read more below.
For the full article, head here.
Reinventions of Air Max require striking a deft balance between stability and experience. Creating the softest sensation, provided by the latest Air Max 720, is achieved by pushing the limits of material and architecture. In this case, the Air-Sole doesn’t just offer a big bounce, it cradles the foot for support. Wearers can’t wobble, otherwise the intention of comfort stumbles.
Part of the equation is solved by going big — made possible by an inventive split-seam construction that allows an Air-Sole’s walls to form a large geometry without losing structural integrity.
Creating huge Air-Soles was originally made possible by a single technology: Blow molding.
With blow molding, Air units were able to take on new forms and designs, including various heights within the same bag for tapering or contouring. Designers could create different chambers or pods with different pressures that provided superior zonal cushioning. Blow molding also allowed designers to create the tallest Air-Soles (with longer-lasting impact protection), minimize midsole foam and make the most visible Air units to date.
How blow molding works
First, TPU pellets are fed into a heated barrel. A rotating screw shears the pellets until they liquefy. Once the material is viscous, it’s forced into a mold (much like squeezing toothpaste into a tube) that is the shape of the final desired part. The plastic cools and is ejected from the machine as a finished component.
This is an outer swept pinch (OSP). It’s a ridge of TPU that’s durable and reliable enough to connect an Air bag to the bite line of a shoe’s upper. When Nike invented the OSP, it made the 2016 Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit possible — the first foam-, rubber- and glue-free Air unit. Before that, all Nike Air shoes required elements such as foam or TPU rands to connect the Air unit to the upper, which added weight and diminished the soft, bouncy, flexible sensation of Air.
Full article, here.
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