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Super Cleats


According to CBS News, “former Olympic sprinter and gold medalist Michael Johnson approached Nike about creating a new cleat.  Johnson is now a speed training coach working with NFL players, and he wanted to give his athletes an edge.”

Thus began Nike’s project to design a cleat to be used in Super Bowl XLVIII.  That’s when 3D printing technology entered the picture.  As Nike Director of Innovation Shane Kohatsu explains. “with 3D printing you can have an idea, sketch it out, 3D model it, and by the next day you come to the office and you have a part….the [technology] really changes the pace that we get to work and it really changes how far we can go in a short amount of time.  You can imagine how liberating that is for a designer.”

Indeed, Kohatsu “said it might have taken three years to complete this project using the traditional method of injection molding…under that system it took months to make the slightest tweaks, because the entire process had to be repeated with each redesign.  With 3D printers, those tweaks can be done in hours.”

The cleats were created with the ‘Zero Step’ in mind.   This ‘Zero Step’ is “the pivotal moment when propulsion and acceleration are determined.  The cleat needed to reduce the fractions of an inch that the foot slips backwards when an athlete starts to sprint.”  In this specific context, during the Super Bowl, “mastering the Zero Step can mean the difference between a defensive lineman sacking the quarterback or getting blocked.”

Following a motion capture video technology study focusing on Zero Step, the Nike design team used 3D printed to create “dozens of prototype cleat plates and spike shapes.  Many of those shapes would not have been possible with traditional manufacturing, said Kohatsu…after testing dozens of prototypes, Nike determined that shaping the spike like a shovel helps athletes dig in faster for the best performance at Zero Step.” 

These cleat plates “served as the prototype for the Super Bowl-ready shoe, the Vapor Carbon 2014 Elite Cleat.”

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

Quotes and Video Courtesy of CBS News

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