OffBeat

3D printing is helping Nike build the ideal football cleat

Nike’s sneakers are becoming increasingly high tech, and 3D printing is helping them along.

On Sunday, Nike took the lid of the Vapor Laser Talon, a superlight, 5.6-ounce football cleat created in part with a 3D printer.

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Optimized for the 40-yard dash, the Vapor Laser Talon features a 3D-printed base plate optimized to give athletes the ideal drive position as they run, Nike says.

To create the plate, Nike engineers used a 3D printing technique called selective laser sintering, which uses lasers to fuse small particles into 3D shapes. As Nike footwear innovation director Shane Kohatsu notes, the Vapor Laser Talon just wouldn’t be the same shoe if it were designed any other way.

“SLS technology has revolutionized the way we design cleat plates – even beyond football – and gives Nike the capability to create solutions that were not possible within the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes,” he said on the Nike blog.

While a first for Nike, the Vapor Laser Talon is an extension of one of the most obvious uses for 3D printing — rapid prototyping. By using 3D printing, engineers have been able to design and prototype objects at speeds that would have been unheard of years ago.

Sneakers may never be the same.