ANSBACH, Bavaria—Adidas A.G. will collaborate with Johnson Controls Inc. and others to explore options for revolutionizing polyurethane shoe production.
The companies have enlisted a range of partners to contribute to a $7.05 million research project.
Andreas Eppinger, group vice president, technology management at Johnson Controls' automotive seating segment, said the joint venture's goal is to “redefine manufacturing with optimal mix of manual labor and automation.”
Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer described the move as the “first glimpse into the future of production.”
A production run of 500 pairs of Futurecraft 3D printed running shoes has been set for early 2016, with high-volume production for consumers set to launch thereafter.
The Speedfactory project will include intelligent robotic technology while also offering unique design elements to the shoes, as reported previously at UTECH-polyurethane.com, a sister publication of Rubber & Plastics News.
The three-year project aims to create a second plant close to that currently in development in Ansbach, during 2016.
Gerd Manz, Adidas' vice president-technology innovation, said the project is “part of an effort to bring manufacturing back closer to its consumers in more affluent countries,” a footwear industry trend UTECH-polyurethane.com reported previously.
“This flexibility opens doors for us to be much closer to the market and to where our consumer is. Ultimately we are at the forefront of innovating our industry by expanding the boundaries for how, where and when we can manufacture our industry-leading products,” Manz said.
The company claimes that reduced shipping emissions and drastic reduction of adhesives will benefit the environment.
Adidas and German engineering group Manz will share technology for making custom-tailored shoe components in a new type of automated plant called the Speedfactory, Manz added.
Improving production processes for customizable footwear is part of the project's end goal
Oechsler, a company specializing in the production of precision plastic parts, also based in Ansbach, is working with Adidas to establish the facility there.
Adidas's other partners in the project are Johnson Controls, robotic assembly expert KSL Keilmann, the Technical University of Munich's Fortiss Institute as well as the University of Aachen's textile technology institute.
The project is in part funded by the German government. Adidas is the lead partner.