Nike is always on the lookout for new ways to make shoes and materials. The latest innovation from the company is called Flyprint and it is hailed as the first 3D printed textile upper for performance footwear. Flyprint uppers are made using solid deposit modeling (SDM). The process uses a TPU filament that is unwound from a coil, melted, and laid down in layers.
The process “allows designers to translate athlete data into new textile geometries.” Presumably, that means custom measurements meant to make a custom shoe ideal for individual wears. Data is used that is gathered with computational design tools to achieve the ideal composition of the material. All that data is used to produce the final textile.
Nike says that the printing process is capable of prototyping 16 times quicker than previous manufacturing methods. One of the benefits of 3D textiles over traditional fabric is something called increased dynamism by adding an interconnection beyond what Nike calls warp and weft. Warp and weft is the resistance between interlaced yarns in a printed textile.
The 3D printed fabric is also lighter and more breathable than other textiles. Another advantage of the 3D orienting process is faster testing and revision cycles and the ability to adjust materials locally.
Nike says that the new Flyprint material works with other materials it employs including Flyknit yarns. Those yarns can be thermally bonded to Flyprint textiles eliminating any glue or stitching.