Last week HP unveiled the latest and greatest in 3D printing systems for large scale manufacturing. This news in itself wasn’t particularly big news since HP, which has been among the world leaders in the PC and printing field since, well, forever. This is what they do – make some next level printer stuff. What has us raising an eyebrow, are the companies that have been named as collaboration partners – chief among them is Nike.

If you read the USA Today story above (and you should by the way), there are two mentions regarding the swoosh that are of particular interest to us as both basketball players, and sneaker enthusiasts. First, apparently Nike has been using 3D printing to create new performance footwear for “the past several years,” also echoed in this article. Second, they plan to start utilizing this new manufacturing printing technology to mass produce shoes.

Umm, what?  Printers could be making my fave retro AND the latest in performance Jordan kicks? Dang!

When the first 3D printers came out a few years back, we were seeing sneakers that looked like this and like this. There wasn’t even a seemingly legit possibility of real sleek, dope looking sneakers, let alone functional performance basketball shoes being created by these machines. That was obviously incorrect

Nike has been using 3D technology already prior to the news from HP, so what we have now is fantasy becoming more of a reality. They very rarely reveal design innovations or technique before the finished product hits, so we may never really know what boundaries are being pushed by the “old printers” they currently have. Whatever they are, I’m pretty sure that we currently wear what they’ve helped to create and perfect, (at least to this point) on our feet. Nike has been using 3D printing to make the prototypes of what would eventually become mass produced in factories by man and machine. This technology could really make printing kicks a legit phrase when talking about a shoe manufacturing process.

Now, with this technology available it doesn’t mean that Nike just went in and switched over production lines overnight. This is probably still years away, (I’m guessing about 10-15 before it’s reasonably efficient enough to be economically viable, even for Nike). One prototype could take longer than an entire size run of a pair now, for all we know. Regardless, the next wave of 3D printers are giving us a look into the future of what we may be doing for our sneakers.

Here’s to an endless supply of Doerenbecher Jordan Vs and Paranorman Foamposites in our distant future.