If Nike Can 3D Print Sneakers, Just Imagine What You Can 3D Print

This month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Nike a major patent for technology associated with 3D printing shoes, according to an article in Digital Trends. Nike’s patent calls for a machine to scan the design into a computer, and based on the data, print sewing guidelines on the “strobel,” where the shoe’s upper components are affixed to its midsole.

Nike wrote in its patent application that due to improvements in technology, “the number of shoe pieces being added has increased, requiring increasingly complicated manufacturing steps to produce shoes.”

However, 3D printing would not completely eliminate the need for human labor for Nike, as the shoe’s upper half still needs to be attached to the midsole strobel, a process Nike admits is “beyond the scope” of the patent.

“One day, consumers will be able to buy a shoe design file from Nike and 3D print the shoes themselves.”

But one day, consumers will be able to buy a shoe design file from Nike and 3D print the shoes themselves, chief operating officer Eric Sprunk told attendees of GeekWire Summit 2015 in Seattle.

3D printing helped Dr. Redmond Burke, director of pediatric cardiovascular surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, practice before performing heart surgery on five-year-old Mia Gonzalez, Digital Trends wrote.

The surgery team needed to repair Gonzalez’s congenital heart defect called a double aortic arch, but could not enter through the left side of her chest as most surgeons do for this particular operation, according to an article in Fortune. MRI imaging showed that Gonzalez’s vascular ring could only been seen, and therefore repaired, by placing her on her left side and entering the right side of her chest.

To truly understand how to perform the intricate operation, Burke used a 3D-printed model of Gonzalez’s heart. According to Burke, the 3D-printed heart made the difference before Gonzalez’s successful heart operation in May.

“When I opened her chest, the part I needed to divide was right in front of me,” he said. “Because I knew it going in, I could make a much smaller incision in her chest. The 3D-printed heart gives you a fantastic view of a very complex, three-dimensional problem. It helped me do a really good operation for her.”

In another 3D advancement, Paris art installation Iridescence Print presented new 3D printing methods to create full-scale architectural structures with minimal material and virtually no spatial limitations, “opening up new possibilities in 3D printing construction,” according to www.3ders.org.

The art installation was created using Mesh Mould 3D printing technology, which is also being developed for more practical applications in conjunction with construction robots created by Gramazio Kohler Research and scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

By using Mesh Mould 3D printing technology to freely extrude polymers in space, precisely controlled by a robotic arm, workers could create highly complex, customized formwork directly on the construction site, in nearly any shape or size, and with zero material waste.

As these examples show, the possibilities of 3D printing are only limited to a team’s collective imagination. What ideas do these examples prompt in your mind?

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