Nike and Adidas Use 3D Printing to Speed Up Prototyping

nike, adidas, shoes, design, prototype, 3d printing3D printing is leaving its mark with shoe manufacturers.  Specifically, sport shoe developers use 3D Printing to prototype new models.

In a recently published Financial Times article industry leaders Nike and Adidas are lauded for “using [3D Printing] to make multiple prototype versions [of their shoes] at a previously impossible speed.”

According to Shane Kohatsu, Innovation Director at Nike, by leveraging 3D printing “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 continued, “”With traditional injection molding techniques, Nike would typically update complex product parts such as studs “every couple of years.”

In Adidas’ case, 3D printing has been used to reduce the man hours it takes to produce a prototype. Prior to 3D printing, each prototype shoe required the intensive labor or 12 technicians. In addition to making its prototypes cheaper to produce, Adidas says that 3D printing has slashed the time it takes to evaluate a new product.  Under the old regime product evaluations could take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to complete. Today, end to end product evaluations can take as little as 1-2 days.

While 3D printing is changing the speed at which product developers can create prototypes, many in and outside of the industry are wondering when and if the technology will be used to create finished products. For now, 3D printers simply take too long to create a model, but that could all change as more money is invested in improving the technology.

For now Nike and Adidas are happy with the advances that 3D printing has brought to their industry. “What’s really intriguing for us is not the volumes that you can make. It’s really more how rapidly you can make changes,” Said Shane Kohatsu.

Image Courtesy of Nike