Sourced from: 3ders
According to 3ders, they reported recently on a designer from 3D printing footwear start-up Wiiv Wearables attempting to run the Boston Marathon, in a pair of his company’s 3D printed sandals. In the UK, something similar will soon be happening, but this time involving Nike and Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s fastest marathon runner. He will be running this year’s London Marathon in a pair of Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint trainers, specially made for him using 3D printing technology.
Kipchoge can lay claim to being one of the best male marathon runners of all time. He has won six out of the seven that he has competed in so far and also achieved the fastest time ever recorded, completing a race of 26.2 miles just 25 seconds over the two-hour mark, back in May 2017. This latter record wasn’t recognized officially, however, as the course was unsanctioned. He attempted to break the record again in September at the Berlin Marathon, but he was unsuccessful, claiming that extra moisture in the fabric of his trainers slowed him down a little. This weight problem was a jumping-off point for Nike to develop a new pair of trainers for him, making use of 3D printing.
Nike had previously made a pair of Zoom Vaporfly Elite trainers for Kipchoge, the same pair that he used in his fastest marathon effort so far. 3D printing technology is regularly used by the company’s design team for prototyping, but this new project featured 3D printed elements in the finished running shoes. Other sportswear companies are also starting to make use of 3D printing at the final stages of their production, including New Balance, which has partnered with Formlabs, and Adidas, which is working with cutting-edge 3D printer manufacturer Carbon.
Kipchoge was directly involved in the development process, trying out a number of different designs. “We printed a shoe and then I thought, ‘I’m just going to run in these and see what happens”’, he said. ”It fit amazing and felt really good, but quickly fell apart by the end of the run. We knew there was still work to be done, but all of us collectively in the team said there was huge potential here, let’s keep pushing forward, and one of the big advantages was to quickly turn around iterations and fix the problems as we went.”
The new trainers kept the same foam base as the previous pair, but their entire upper was redesigned using 3D printing. The design iteration process started after taking detailed 3D scans of Kipchoge’s foot as well as collecting pressure data and other measurements. Nike’s printing technique is called FlyPrint, and it involves individually printing every thread of the fabric.
According to Roger Cheng, a Nike 3D printing expert, “I can go in and manipulate every single thread and how it is going through the entire upper, but the data will ensure I am not going to do something that will hurt performance.”
The whole process took just nine days, as result of the incredibly short amount time it now takes for prototypes to be built, which is often as little as 45 minutes. The resulting pair of trainers is known as Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint. One of the shoes weighs just 169g (0.37 lbs), which is 6 percent lighter than its predecessors. As well as hopefully helping Kipchoge to break the world record, a version of these trainers will be commercially available, for around £499 ($714).