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Nike’s Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint leans hard into computational design

Computational design is the hottest phrase in manufacturing and 3D printing at the moment. It’s changing the way people make all kinds of goods, and Nike used it to design and manufacture its new  Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint shoe, which it’s announcing today. The shoe is a specialized edition of its Zoom Vaporfly Elite 4%, which was used by elite runner Eliud Kipchoge during Nike’s Breaking2 event, which resulted in the fastest marathon ever run. The special sauce in this edition is the FlyPrint upper, which is printed on the fly by a specially customized 3D printer out of a proprietary Nike polymer. I spoke with Nike’s Brett Holts, product line manager for running footwear and Roger Chen, a senior director for Nike’s NXT Digital Innovation department, about the process and the shoe. The material is printed out in a pattern specifically designed for a given athlete’s needs and attached to the much hyped Zoom X foam midsole from the 4% model. The process, which Nike is calling FlyPrint, has some similarities to Nike’s other famous ‘fly’ process, FlyKnit, hence the name. The printing process, says Chen, is a lot like painting the material. The uppers I saw pre-lasting look a lot like a regular butterfly upper, with the same kind of flexibility you’re used to seeing from fabric or other polymer-based upper materials. This is not a hard-shell 3D-printed material, it’s a fabric of sorts. This is reinforced by the fact that several components of the shoe are still made of FlyKnit including the tongue and collar. Those parts are so similar in chemical composition that there is no glue needed to attach them.

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Nike’s Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint leans hard into computational design

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