Oct 7, 2015 | By Tess

Recently, Kanye West expressed his fear of 3D printing on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, saying that it would ruin the textile industry with people soon “making their shoes at home.” Perhaps his thoughts of people additively manufacturing their shoes was not too outlandish, however, as Nike COO Eric Sprunk recently divulged that this may soon indeed be the future of Nike shoe manufacturing.

Sprunk, who has been working for Nike for over two decades, recently attended and spoke at a GeekWire summit where he spoke of future Nike products and new innovations the company is pursuing. Among these new ventures is the Nike Flyknit technology, which Sprunk says, could be the start of changing the whole manufacturing process for sneakers as the shoe is not made in the otherwise used assembly method, but whose upper is completely knitted.

The benefits of this sort of manufacturing for Nike’s sneakers include eliminating the waste from the assembly method (Sprunk explains of the Flyknit shoe, “The amount of waste from this shoe can fit literally in a thimble. It’s just leftover thread”), and streamlining the production process (the knit files could be sent directly to knitting machines rather than having to send a weighty “tech pack” to the factories in Asia).

Nike COO Eric Sprunk

Sprunk says of Nike’s innovative spirit, “That innovation for the last 40 years or so has been primarily design based innovation, what is the product going to look like, how is it going to feel on your body, what’s the engineering of the pattern on the clothing…and [the Nike Flyknit] represents the first time that we said ‘yes that’s great but that’s not good enough’. We also want to be innovating in the manufacturing of the shoe, actually the method of the make. Shoes have been made the same way for decades and we wanted to bust that paradigm.”

Of course, the 3D printing of Nike shoes has still not happened, though when asked if there was the potential for consumers to print their own Nike shoes in their own home, Sprunk was confident this could soon be a reality. “Do I envision a future where [Nike] might still own the file, from an IP perspective – because it’s a Nike product; you can’t have just anybody make a Nike product – and you can manufacture that either in your home or we will do it for you at our store?” says Sprunk, “Oh yeah, that’s not that far away.”

This manufacturing revolution for Nike could eventually consist of consumers customizing their own Nike shoe products, purchasing the design file from the Nike website and following instructions to create their very own Nike shoes on their household 3D printers or having them made at a Nike store.

Funnily enough, Kanye West may eventually be right about the future of additive manufacturing in the textile and fashion industries, though we still doubt if this advancement is something to fear, especially if Nike, one of the world’s most recognized sport and shoe brands, stands at the forefront of it.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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