UpFront: Why is an Athletic Shoe on the Cover?
By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief
First of all, I hope it caught your attention. We at SME and Manufacturing Engineering have been doing a lot of soul searching about what we do here, and more importantly, how we will adapt to the changing manufacturing industry of the future.
This month, in the bottom righthand corner of our cover, you’ll notice SME is launching a new logo and brand identity, along with a new tagline: “Making the future. Together.”
We will now be known as SME—and SME alone. Simply put, we have outgrown our identity as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Our reach is far more broad than “manufacturing engineering.” Our manufacturing community spans many types of workers, from engineers to technicians, just as it spans many different ways of making things.
SME’s purpose is to advance all of manufacturing and attract future generations to an industry that is creative, high-tech and changing faster than ever.
We at Manufacturing Engineering will still be focused primarily on how things are made today, with all of the machines, tooling and software being used in mass production. We haven’t given up our love and dedication to metalworking. But we must acknowledge that times are changing. Things are being made differently. Not all manufacturing is en masse.
In the future, we will see new technologies integrated into traditional mass manufacturing methods. We will also continue to see the reinvention of traditional methods, often enabled by improved software and sensing technologies.
Which gets me to the shoe. Or, more specifically, to the Nike Vapor Laser Talon with a 3D printed plate. It weighs 5.6 oz and is designed for optimal traction on football turf.
This shoe is truly symbolic of how manufacturing is evolving.
Launched in February, Nike’s football cleat was made with laser sintering technology. Nike is marketing it as “the sport’s first 3D-printed plate” and notes in promotional materials that the 3D process allowed for the creation of shapes “not possible in traditional manufacturing processes.” New Balance also has publicly promoted the use of a pair of custom 3D printed plates by a professional runner, Jack Bolas, this year.
The fact that two big companies embroiled in the global shoe wars saw value in promoting how their product was made with additive manufacturing methods reveals a great deal. It shows that the 3D printing concept really has hit the mainstream. (Even President Barack Obama mentioned it in his State of the Union). It shows the marketplace loves technology and innovation. And it also shows that people do care how things are made—a critical lesson for attracting the next generation into advanced manufacturing.
This article was first published in the June 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.