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NIKE shoe USB stick

Rapid Tooling for a mini Nike shoe as gadget USB stick

DeskProto user Model Engineering in the Netherlands is an experienced model maker. The company started in 1975, producing complex piping models of complete plants for the petrochemical industry. In due course other types of models followed, resulting in an allround model making company.

One of the model fields that Model Engineering is active in are the promotional give-away articles (gadgets). So when Nike needed a series of give-away USB sticks at a very short term, Model Engineering could respond quicker than the competition from the far east. The commission was to create a series of 5000 USB sticks in the shape of a Nike shoe (new model Nike Air 360), in two different color schemes.

The commission came from publicity agency OY Communications in Amsterdam. The stick was meant to be loaded with product data, then distributed to the press in a worldwide marketing campaign for this new Nike shoe model.

Scanning a sport shoe
3D model in DeskProto
The 3D scanner in action, and the scanned Nike shoe in DeskProto.

The geometry for the USB stick was generated by scanning a shoe of the new type. The 3D scanning service was provided by Amitek Prototyping in De Meern (also a DeskProto user), using their K-Scan scanning system by Nikon. After cleaning up the scan data the result was an STL file of ca 6 Mb.

The 3D scan-data was perfect for the shape of the shoe, however the sole with its geometric shapes came out insufficiently clear. So Model Engineering has modelled the sole geometry in Solid Edge, and has exported that part as STL file too.

Toolpaths in DeskProto
Milling the sole mold
Toolpaths for the sole in DeskProto and on the milling machine.

The next step was to machine a sample model on scale. This was of course done using DeskProto as it easily can handle STL files of such size. Model Engineering uses two Bridgeport CNC milling machines, both of them retrofitted with a controller made by Step Four and driven by the S4Pro control software. The machines are equipped with High Speed spindle motors (60.000 rpm), which makes the use of very small cutters possible, down to 0.2 mm diameter.

The prototype then was sent to Nike for approval, after which the series production could be prepared.

Mold for the upper part of the shoe
Mold for the middle part of the shoe
Two of the molds, with the resulting parts.

Series production was done using injection molding, in aluminum molds. These molds have been machined in-house by Model Engineering, again using DeskProto toolpaths.

As each product consisted of four separate parts (not counting the actual USB stick), four separate molds have been created. It was needed to use separate parts because the product had to be hollow (room for the USB stick), and because the sole needed to be made in a transparent material for an optimum recognition of the new Air 360 model. Also the logo was a separate part as it had to clearly recognizable.

Mold for the sole
Simple mold for the Nike logo
Mold for the sole, and the logo which is made using a very simple mold.

The resulting parts have been either colored either by spraying paint and (for some details) by applying ink with a marker. Finally the products were assembled packaged, have been delivered to the client.

The resulting USB-stick, closed
The resulting USB-stick, opened
The resulting USB stick, open and closed.

The resulting USB sticks have been used worldwide at press-release presentations. The data the stick perfectly matched with its appearance, as this was a desirable gadget the data has been distributed more widely than it would have been a printed press-release handout.