Nike Is Getting Into the 3D Printing Game

Nike is beginning to use 3D printing to develop shoe prototypes, French 3D printing company Prodways announced yesterday.

Prodways’ 3D-printed outsoles, midsoles and insoles, which are made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material, are meant to decrease manufacturing time for the sneaker giant while also providing higher performance for wearers.

Although Nike has not announced plans to release 3D-printed shoes to consumers yet, its executives are praising the quality of Prodways’ material, as well as the speed of manufacturing the product.

“Prodways’ TPU material has been an excellent addition to our Rapid Prototyping operations,” said Nike Rapid Prototyping Innovator Harleigh Doremus. “The ease-of-processing of the TPU material has allowed us to consistently produce high quality flexible parts and is a key component in increasing the ‘speed-to-market’ of new Nike products.”

There are multiple benefits that could accompany the use of TPU material. In addition to cutting down on manufacturing time, the future in these products offers the opportunity to better serve those with orthopedic issues, according to Cyrille Pailleret, the general manager of Prodways’ ScientiFeet insole division.

“Being able to 3D print customized soles for specific pain relief is a game-changer for orthopedic applications. 3D-printed insoles are lighter and deliver higher precision to offer a tailor-made treatment to each patient,” Pailleret said.

The French company has already printed over 5,000 pairs of ScientiFeet insoles. Before long, Nike products could feature its partner’s futuristic insoles, providing increased comfort to consumers.

Although 3D printing is still relatively new in the sneaker industry, Nike falls a bit behind competitors New Balance and Adidas. Both of those brands have already released shoes with 3D-printed midsoles to the public, although the rival sneaker giants only released limited quantities of their 3D-printed styles. But Nike continues to command a larger market share than its rivals, and the Oregon-based company’s decision to partner with a 3D printing company indicates that a publicly available 3D-printed Nike shoe may not be far off.

While 3D printing may seem like a fad on first glance, the multifaceted utility of TPU material, and a recent consumer research survey by Interactions that showed 95 percent of consumers are eager to purchase 3D-printed products, indicates that the trend might be here to stay.

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