Just as I was wrapping up a story about how Adidas athletic shoe company has released a “statement of intent” to offer in-store scanning services to then 3D print shoes for customers, another 3D printing-related story about another athletic shoe giant came to my attention. And this is no regular giant, but the sports shoe Goliath itself — Nike. We’ve already seen plenty of news surrounding Nike in the 3D printing space, but it seems the company is gearing up to go even farther. Recently, at a GeekWire Summit, Eric Sprunk, Nike COO, acknowledged that 3D printing your Nike shoes at home may not be that far off. In fact, we have that on video to prove that this idea is definitely more than percolating over at Nike headquarters.
As the Summit dialogue progresses, after Sprunk has given a detailed introduction to Nike’s incorporation of new technologies, one of the moderators asks him: “Could there be a day when Nike provides a file to the consumer so they can print shoes at their house?” And Sprunk doesn’t miss a beat. He replies, “Yes, there could be a day when that happens.” (Audience and stage participant mutual laughter ensues.) The moderator asks, “How far away is that? Next month?”
And Sprunk responds:
“You know we have a huge initiative in our company called Manufacturing Revolution, it’s really just innovation in manufacturing…Do I envision a future where we might still own the file, from an IP perspective, because we want the Nike product (you can’t just have anybody make a Nike product), and you can manufacture that in your home or we will do that at our store? Oh yeah, that’s not that far away.”
Wow. Is this big news or is this exactly what those of us who follow 3D printing closely already know? 3D printing is not only changing the face of multinational companies, but individual households, as people are no longer tethered to the in-store offerings, but can innovate their own shoes.
My question is this: will people still pay for that Nike file so they can still have the designs, or will the desktop 3D printing revolution accompany consumer innovation to the point where people would rather brag that they straight up designed and printed their own shoes instead of simply printing a file from a company? Who knows how this will all play out.
Sprunk wants to ensure us that Nike is prepared for the manufacturing future which, in his estimate, is right around the corner. And the recent news from Adidas corroborates this idea further. The athletic shoe companies are on top of the latest technologies. This is the same future that Kanye West recently claimed that he “feared.” But what’s to fear? One thing that Nike has always been known for is its sweatshop conditions overseas. (This is why they rebranded the shoe and diminished the appearance of the oh-so-prominent Swoosh.) How can a manufacturing revolution hurt a company that many have already questioned regarding labor practices?
Interesting times, indeed, but one thing is for sure. By embracing the changes that many believe have already arrived, massive companies like Nike have an opportunity to reinvent itself along new lines. But, my question remains. As 3D printing empowers the customer, will we still pay for the “Swoosh”? That is to be determined, it seems.
What are your thoughts on at-home 3D printing of shoes? Let us know in the 3D Print Your Own Nikes forum thread on 3DPB.comTo see Sprunk’s 3D printing comments, check the 30 minute mark on the below video:
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