BUSINESS

Nike Is One Step Closer To Being Able To 3D-Print Shoes

10/16/2015 02:06 EDT | Updated 10/16/2015 02:59 EDT

There are going to be some pretty cool kicks.

Yesterday, Nike was granted a patent for a major technology that will bring it one step closer to being able to 3D-print shoes — and reduce its employment costs.

Nike COO Eric Sprunk described the new technology at the Geekwire Summit conference earlier this month.

A shopper would customize the sneaker online, choosing the color, style, and exact size, and then download a proprietary file to print the shoe at home or in a store, according to Business Insider.

"Do I envision a future where we might still own the file from an IP perspective -- you can't just have anyone making a Nike product -- and have it manufactured in your own home, or we do it for you at our store?" Sprunk said at the conference. "Yeah, that's not that far away."

Specifically, Nike's patent is concerned with "automated strobel printing."

According to Digital Trends, "the strobel is one way a shoe can be 'lasted' — affixing the shoe’s upper to its midsole." Nike’s popular Flynit shoe line primarily uses strobel.

The patent calls for a machine that scans the design into a computer. Based on the information input, the machine would print sewing guidelines on the strobel.

The patent wouldn't drastically change how Nike manufactures shoes. It does, however, modernize the process.

From Nike's patent application:

As shoe technologies continue to evolve, particularly athletic shoe designs, the number of shoe pieces being added has increased, requiring increasingly complicated manufacturing steps to produce shoes. Such manufacturing steps are still largely carried out by hand.

Automating shoe manufacturing is no trivial task. While humans can easily assemble shoes on a last and sew uppers and strobels together, such tasks are cumbersome to machines that cannot move freely. Along the same lines, checking shoe parts for errors can be easily done by workers trained to look for specific problems but is difficult for machines.

For Nike there's the added bonus that 3D printing seriously reduces labour costs.

Also on HuffPost

Nike Flynit Lunar 3