“I’m a well-trained athlete in top physical condition, but when I play my sports, I need the right equipment in order to fully utilize my prowess. That’s where 3D printing comes in.” – yours truly in an alternative dimension in which I am not a pitiful excuse of wasting human flesh.
Last year, Nike got ahead of the rest of the footwear world as the first company to release a shoe with 3D-printed components. The production of the Vapor Laser Talon didn’t simply use 3D printing for prototyping purposes, but incorporated a 3D printed plate into the final product. This year, the company is making headlines again with their updated football cleat, the Vapor Carbon Elite, which will make its debut at Super Bowl 48.
With the Vapor Laser Talon, the design team at Nike worked with Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson and his MJP NFL training center to design a shoe optimized for use in the straight line of a 40-yard dash. The Laser Talon’s successor, also made with help from MJP, was meant to expand the shoe’s design for use by an entire football team. The Carbon Elite, therefore, would need to increase the speed and traction for linebackers, running backs and QBs, regardless of their direction of movement. Like the Laser Talon, the design of the Carbon Elite was focused on the “zero step” of a player, the moment at which a player begins moving. The goal was to reduce the slippage that may occur during the zero step as much as possible. “So how do you translate a cleat for the 40-yard-dash, which is basically a dragster, into a performance racing machine built for game day?” asks Nike’s director of design for football, Ken Link.
After analyzing footage of players making their first steps, the Nike design team sought to increase the traction of the Carbon Elite by modelling the cleat’s spikes after a shovel. The individual spikes were pointed and curved in a way that mimicked the digging tool, so as to maximize traction. Arrangements of these studs are located cardinally on the bottom of the shoe, with the front housing four studs to enhance propulsion during the zero step and others located on the sides and back for better movement going backwards and side-to-side. The substrate of the shoe was made from 3D printed nylon, while a carbon fibre plate moves from toe to heel, and a series of cables tie the player’s foot down close to the sole of the shoe.
The head of innovation at Nike, Shane Kohatsu explained how the entire design process was sped up dramatically with the new technology, saying that “Something like this would’ve normally taken us two to three years at least. We did it in six months.” The company is already working on their newest developments, but, until their next 3D printed shoe is released, you can purchase the Vapor Carbon here. For more info on the design and production of the Vapor Carbon Elite, watch below: