The year is 2018, and printers are no longer machines exclusively reserved for bringing your documents to life. The two-dimensional affair has now evolved to three, and they’re now making far more important things, like artificial bones, entire homes, and your next pair of Nike runners.
Shortly after setting the sneaker scene abuzz with the self-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0, the R&D team at Nike has unveiled another kicker: The Nike Flyprint. It’s the first to incorporate a 3D-printed textile upper in athletic footwear, with the promise of providing precision-tuned performance.
The result is the fastest ever shoe by the Swoosh — it was, after all, created in collaboration with Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan marathoner who famously ran the fastest marathon ever in Berlin last year, and also a gold medallist at the 2016 Olympics marathon.
More than just a pretty face, the core of Nike’s Flyprint 3D tech is its ability and efficiency to be made customisable to any athlete’s feet. This means that your individual data can be translated into the most optimum textile geometry. A prototype can also be made 16 times faster than conventional methods. Nike managed to conceptualise, make, and send Kipchoge his new kicks in nine days, most of which was spent on shipping them to Kenya.
Flyprint is also lighter and more breathable than regular Flyknit, the sock-like fabric that subsequently triggered a phenomenon in knitted shoes.
Fundamentally, the Flyprint uppers are made using solid deposit modelling (SDM), where a TPU filament (extremely flexible type of plastic) is unwound from a coil, melted and laid down in layers into an outline. Just imagine a baker delicately applying fancy frosting to a cake.
Driven by his feedback following the Berlin Marathon, Kipchoge put Nike’s 3D printed tech to the test at the London Marathon (which he won) with the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint shoe. Though created specially for him, Nike has made the shoes available in limited quantities in London through the Nike App. We reckon those are destined to be a collector’s dream.
(All images: Nike)