Nike is showing off a new cleat designed to help American football players excel in the all-important 40-yard dash. NFL scouts regard the dash as incredibly important, and Nike's new shoe is designed to help athletes decrease their times. What makes the Nike Vapor Laser Talon interesting is its 3D-printed cleat plate, which is a first for athletic cleats.
Nike's new cleat weighs in at 5.6 oz (28.3 g), and the 3D-printed cleat plate is specifically designed for gripping on football turf. It's also built to help athletes maintain the initial drive stance longer. Overall, the shoe is intended to give athletes more speed and power during the first 10 yards, which is the most critical to achieving a solid time on the 40.
The 3D-printed portion of the cleat is made using Selective Laser Sintering technology, in which a high-powered laser is used to selectively fuse thermoplastic particles into the desired solid shape; in this case, the cleat plate. This technique allows Nike to make the plate in a much shorter amount of time while decreasing the overall weight, which offers obvious benefits to athletes.
Nike intends to use this technology in other cleats as well. According to Shane Kohatsu, Director of Nike Footwear Innovation, “SLS technology has revolutionized the way we design cleat plates – even beyond football – and gives Nike the ability to create solutions that were not possible within the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes."
French engineer and designer Luc Fusaro has previously gone one better, by 3D-printing complete lightweight sprint shoes.