The name almost sounds made up–the Nike Vapor Laser Talon–like it was spit out by some Spike TV show title generator. But the Nike Vapor Laser Talons aren’t just real, they can claim a world’s first, as they’re the first football cleats to be equipped with a 3-D printed sole.
Weighing a mere 5.6 ounces, the shoes were designed to enhance a player’s “zero step,” to increase the speed of off-the-line launch, which feeds into a player’s maximum momentum. Apparently, the sole’s mix of weight and geometry wasn’t producible by Nike’s normal manufacturing processes. So instead, the company turned to Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology, using lasers to melt materials into shape.
Given that a laser has a fairly flexible path, the side effect of this process is that design iterations could be tested “within hours instead of months.” I imagine a new wave of prototyping where a designer shaves fractions of a millimeter from a CAD system, prints the shoes, then places them on a tester’s foot.
But of course, the most compelling possibility of such a new process is customization. Companies like Nike have been long-forced to treat all people’s feet as the same–minus very rough measurements of length and width. With this product in mind, ordering a cleat that’s optimized for your shape, weight, and gait certainly doesn’t seem so far-fetched.