It shouldn't come as a surprise that 3D printers are helping shoe manufacturers accelerate the prototyping of new shoes. But just how big is that impact? The Financial Times reports that both Nike and Adidas are embracing the semi-new technology and churning out prototypes at "previously impossible" speeds.
Adidas previously required a team of 12 technicians to make prototypes by hand. Now? No more than two. The company also reduced the time it takes to evaluate prototypes from four to six weeks to one or two days! Nike's innovation director Shane Kohatsu had this to say about the development of its Vapor Laser Talon football cleats, a 5.6-ounce cleat built specifically for the 40-yard dash:
“Within six months we were able to go through 12 rounds of prototype iterations that we fully tested, and ultimately we were able to make super dramatic improvements to our products.”
Kohatsu went on to say that Nike would typically change out stud configurations, a relatively complex part, "every couple of years".
That's not to say we'll be able to buy 3D printed shoes anytime soon. The materials used in 3D printing aren't exactly durable. Yet. [FT]