The breakthrough of 3D-printing is causing a turnaround in the production of sporting goods. Producers such as Nike and Adidas are using the technique to produce sports shoes faster and cheaper.
Prototypes and custom shoes
At Nike they produced the sole of a sports shoe with studs for American Football players for the first time through 3D-printing. Earlier that had to be done by injecting plastic into a mould, but now it can be done by a printing technique that puts thin layers of plastic on top of each other. This makes it possible to create a custom shoe for every player without having to create a different mould.
Rival Adidas is also using the technique during production: Before 3D-printing Adidas needed 12 people to create a prototype, now two people suffice. The lead time has also been reduced from 4 to 6 weeks to 1 to 2 days.
Still too slow for mass production
Shane Kohatsu, marketing director at Stratatys, the company that is responsible for 3D-printing at Adidas, Reebok and Nike tells the Financial Times the process is still far from fit for mass production, but they are slowly getting there.
The biggest problem for mass production is the speed: it takes about two hours to create a sole through 3D-printing.