Most of us are already well aware of Nike’s intentions to use 3D printing as a major part of their footwear assembly process. They have already used 3D printing in big ways to help them design, and prototype a few different models of shoes, particularly cleats.
Take for instance the Vapor Carbon cleat they produced for this year’s Super Bowl. This cleat featured a 3D printed nylon based plate that Nike called the “V-Plate.” Yesterday the company announced yet another shoe, the Nike Vapor Laser Talon concept cleat, which was also produced using 3D printing technology.
Today we got a tip from one of our readers about two key patent applications filed by Nike only a few weeks ago, both having to do with the direct 3D printing of footwear. Both patents, awarded to inventors David P. Jones, and Ryan R. Larson, could revolutionize the apparel industry in the long run, and were originally filed way back in July of 2012.
Patent number US 20140020191 A1 is for the direct printing to fabric, and basically covers the technology needed in order to print multiple materials and multiple colors onto a piece of fabric, one layer at a time. The abstract for this patent reads as follows:
“Methods and systems are disclosed for three-dimensional printing directly onto an article of apparel. Disclosed is a method and system for direct three-dimensional printing onto an article of apparel, including designing a three-dimensional pattern for printing onto the article, positioning at least a portion of the article on a tray in a three-dimensional printing system, the portion being positioned substantially flat on the tray, printing a three-dimensional material directly onto the article using the designed pattern, curing the printed material, and removing the article from the three-dimensional printing system.”
The next patent is US 20140020192 A1, which covers a footwear assembly method using 3D printing. This patent overlaps the first one in some ways, but also includes the assembly of the footwear along with the 3d printing of its parts. The abstract reads as follows:
“Methods and systems are disclosed for apparel assembly using three-dimensional printing directly onto fabric apparel materials. Disclosed is a method and system for direct three-dimensional printing and assembly of an article of apparel, including designing a three-dimensional pattern for printing, positioning at least a portion of the article on a tray in a three-dimensional printing system, the portion being positioned substantially flat on the tray, printing a three-dimensional material directly onto the article using the designed pattern, curing the printed material, and removing the article from the three-dimensional printing system.”
Nike appears to be extremely serious in advancing this technology to a point where the majority of each shoe will be directly 3D printed. As printer speeds and accuracy increase in the next few years, this will likely be an economically sound path for the company to follow, especially if they are able to lock up key patents within the industry, like they have begun doing. Discuss these patents at 3dPrintBoard.
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