On August 12th, when Olympic Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce takes to the track in Rio de Janeiro for the women’s 100m preliminaries, she will wear a revolutionary running shoe from Nike that owes a lot to 3D printing.
According to the sportswear giant, the Zoom Superfly Elite shoe that will be brought into battle by the the Jamaican icon and winner of the last two Olympic 100m crowns is among the most advanced ones. Years were spent by Fraser-Pryce who worked together with the development team of Nike in order to make a flawless profile for her 100m dash as well as to tailor the shoes she will wear to the battle.
Allyson Felix, an American sprinter, also collaborated with Nike with the aim of producing her own Superfly Elite which is evidently an ongoing process. The perfect plate depends on the athlete and 3D printing is the reason that is taking us away from a one-size fits all approach and letting the likes of Nike’s supported athletes to create their absolute best.
At the Olympic Games, sprint races can be determined by thousandths of a second. Therefore, one can simply say that the hard work spent into the making of these shoes is perhaps capable of making a difference between victory and defeat for Fraser-Pryce. This is the reason for Nike to invest in 3D printing more than 20 different spike plates to help her get the best possible start and extract as much speed as possible from each stride.
Nike resolved to discard the conventional screw-in spikes that can be replaced individually after going through a rigorous testing and opted for a series of fixed pins. Additive manufacturing assisted them in verifying a great number of options and select the best design, however the actual finished plate is not 3D printed.
Shane Kohatsu, Nike’s innovation design director, wanted to optimise how the plates bounced off the surface of the track. Well, you must remember that the perfect plate is a complicated compromise. It has to deliver the right amount of support, bear up the repeated impacts in addition to being lightweight.
According to Kohatsu, “For us right now, 3D printing is all about accelerating the project, the innovation process.” The same approach was adopted by Nike with American football cleats and has worked hard with a number of pole vaulters that have their own specific demands for a shoe. The Nike Zoom PV III is the end result.
He also stated:
“We’ll 3D-print to have something for them to have in their hand. If the scale is correct, they can put it on and walk around in it, but they’re not going to go pole-vault in it. We don’t do any of that.”
A somewhat conservative approach has been taken by Nike towards 3D printing and Kohatsu declares that it is not rather the ‘easy bake oven’, like some people believe it to be. Others have gone much further.
Futurecraft 3D, a lightweight running shoe that permits the foot to breathe, has been revealed by Adidas in recent times. In addition to this, shoes with 3D printed soles are also being sold nowadays to general public by New Balance and Under Armour.
A generous role has been played by 3D printing in the Olympic Games which is also going to feature in the Paralympic Games that follow thanks to BMW’s creative consultancy printing wheelchairs for the US team and a German cyclist using a 3D printed prosthetic leg. 3D printing has turned out to be a powerful ally for athletes who are in search for the nth degree of performance due to its fast prototyping feature. Therefore, the only real surprise is that it hasn’t been used more which we believe to change soon.