Nike just released its Vapor Laser Talon football cleat, the first to ever incorporate 3D printing. The 5.6 oz shoes were designed to improve an athlete's “zero step," the moment in a sprint when an athlete pushes off and before their foot touches the ground for the first time. It's in that moment when propulsion and acceleration speed are determined. To create a cleat that improves the zero step, Nike had to turn to 3D printing because traditional manufacturing processes wouldn't allow for mass production of the shape necessary for the shoe.
The sole, or plate, of the cleat was made using Selective Laser Sintering technology, which uses high-powered lasers to mold tiny particles into a three-dimensional shape. Using this technique, Nike says it was able to quickly get a prototype of the shoe and test it in a fraction of the time it would normally take. That also means that innovation can happen faster because design tweaks and updates can be done in hours instead of months.
Of course Nike's use of 3D printing in manufacturing will have applications outside of just football cleats. “SLS technology has revolutionized the way we design cleat plates – even beyond football – and gives Nike the ability to create solutions that were not possible within the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes,” said Shane Kohatsu, Nike's director of footwear innovation.
[Via Fast Co Design]