Oct 14, 2015 | By Tess

Nike has been at the forefront of sneaker and running shoe styles and technology for decades, often even dictating what current trends are and what future trends will be. It was especially exciting for us 3D printing enthusiasts then, when Nike’s COO Eric Sprunk spoke at a GeekWire Summit last month and suggested that 3D printing shoe technology was not too far away for the multinational company. Well, it appears Sprunk may have been hinting at something more concrete than a suggestion, as Nike just yesterday patented the technology for additively manufactured shoes.

The patent, which was originally filed in 2012, delves into the process of shoe manufacturing and breaks down the technology behind their 3D printed shoe patent.

As explained in the patent’s abstract, the 3D printing method would be based around the strobel, traditionally the fabric or non-woven material that is stitched to the bottom of a shoe upper. Essentially, a conveyor or similar machine would move strobels to a camera or scanner, which would capture images of the strobels and send the data to a computer. Based on the data from the strobel images, a computer would then send instructions to a printer, which would subsequently print sewing guidelines onto said strobel.

The advent of 3D printed shoe technology could eventually mean a massive shift in the processes and methods used for manufacturing footwear. As explained in the patent, shoe manufacturing has been and largely remains to be extremely labour-intensive. The patent explains, “As shoe technologies continue to evolve, particularly athletic shoe designs, the number of shoe pieces being added has increased, requiring increasingly complicated manufacturing steps to produce shoes. Such manufacturing steps are still largely carried out by hand.”

Nike Flyknit sneakers

Incorporating 3D printing technology would inevitably simplify this process, as printers would minimize the amount of assembly necessary for making shoes, and as Eric Sprunk intimated in his talk at the Geek Wire Summit, the new direction of shoe manufacturing would also mean less waste in terms of materials.

For consumers, this potential new method for shoe manufacturing could mean the ability to bring a digital file into a Nike store and have a custom fit shoe manufactured on the spot. Of course, we still have to look forward to this future reality of additively manufactured shoes, but as Nike COO Eric Sprunk expressed at the GeekWire summit, that future might not be so far away. Now, with Nike possessing the patent for 3D printed shoe technology, we do not doubt that this is true!

Nike COO Eric Sprunk


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Alexander Straub wrote at 7/11/2016 12:50:54 PM:

It's a great privilege to be associated with 3D printing via Next Dynamics Ltd and the up and coming Printer NexD1. The capabilities in 3D printing via the Next Dynamics will be substantially extended into conductive and non conductive materials. NIke for example could print with the NexD1 circuits into the sole to enable conductive charging of the running sensors, directly printed within the same process #NexD1 #NextDynamics #ImagineNew

Ben wrote at 10/20/2015 4:18:46 AM:

Thanks for the clarification. It would seem that 3d printed anything in and of itself is NOT patentable since it is evolutionary and not revolutionary. I was also mislead by the headline.

Daniel Greenwell wrote at 10/16/2015 3:12:55 PM:

Hello, Just so you know, this patent actually has nothing to do with 3D Printing. It is essentially 2D inkjet printing onto material to aid in later manual assessbly of the shoes. Very misleading headline!

Matt Renna - shoemaker wrote at 10/14/2015 7:39:19 PM:

I'm pretty sure there is nothing 3D about the process described in this patent, only 2D printing of ink onto a flat piece of material. They are simply printing guidelines onto a flat strobel insole so that automated machines can see those guidelines during future assembly operations of the shoe. From the patent: "Many different types of printers may be used. Examples include, without limitation, toner-based, inkjet, laser, solid ink, dye-sublimation, inkless, thermal, ultraviolet ("UV"), impact, dot-matrix printers or the like. Other examples of the present invention may not even use printers, opting instead to incise, score, apply reflective or piezoelectric marks, or otherwise designate guidelines on strobels. Combinations of such marking devices may also be used to apply guidelines"

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