Nike has introduced a very significant product in the timeline of “shoes.” The American shoemaker has unveiled the first-ever 3D printed shoes, the Nike Flyprint. It is the first 3D-printed textile upper in performance footwear. What this basically means is that the entire shoe is not 3D printed, in fact, it is the upper material that is not woven or mass produced, it is 3D printed.
The Nike Flyprint are produced through solid deposit modeling (SDM), a process whereby a TPU filament is unwound from a coil, melted and laid down in layers. While the process of 3D printing objects is not new, it is Nike’s implementation in this case that is interesting. According to Nike, the Flyprint method allows designers to translate athlete data into new textile geometries. In a nutshell, this means that all the data of an athlete that can be collected is used to customised accordingly for that athlete to ensure even better performance, from the shoes at least.
Interestingly, the first step in making the Nike Flywear is collecting the data of the particular athlete. Once all the tangible data is collated using computational design tools, it is then studied thoroughly to affirm the ideal composition of the material that will be used. The fascinating aspect of this process is the uniqueness of every resulting product. We all know that athletes wear customised shoes but, with Nike Flywear, that customisation happens down to the last thread used in the upper of every shoe.
One interesting benefit of 3D textiles over traditional 2D fabrics is the increased dynamism by adding an interconnection beyond a warp and weft. For example, whereas in a knit or woven textile there is frictional resistance between the interlaced yarns, in a printed textile, due to its fused intersections, there is greater potential for precision-tuned containment. This also results in lighter and more breathable uppers than any other previous Nike textile.
As evident from the process and result of the Nike Flywear, these are tailor-made for athletes. Nike has announced that the Nike Flywear was created for Eluid Kipchoge, a Kenyan long-distance runner.