Although machines have replaced a lot of hard work involved in making a pair of shoes, there is still a lot of dull manual labor involved. As this video from ECCO demonstrates, humans still have to polish and hammer and stick bits and pieces onto the shoe. But now, world renowned sportswear manufacture Adidas, under the umbrella of the German Government, has decided to replace low paid humans with robots.
According to the details from Fortiss, a German academic research institute, "The aim is to shape the future of manufacturing and come up with innovative products as well as new production technologies & efficiencies while looking into consumer needs, speed, flexibility, and sustain ability. Speedfactory has been selected to be part of the national "Autonomic for Industry 4.0" program. This program contributes to realizing the high-tech strategy 2020 of the Federal Republic of Germany and focuses on a new era of manufacturing by combing state-of-the-art information and communication technologies (ICT) with industrial production, innovative products, or skill-intensive electronic services. The objective is to push the development of autonomic systems to establish Germany as a leading industrial base for new and forward-looking internet-based technologies. Research topics include: production logistics, cognitive basic technologies, human-machine interaction, and 3D industrial applications."
Adidas plans to utilize the benefits of 3D printing to produce fully customizable shoes in a fraction of the time it takes currently. The 'Speedfactory' will be able to produce 500 pairs of machine-knitted uppers and springy, bubble-filled polyurethane foam sole, trainers with just 10 people near its headquarters in Germany. The ultimate goal is to take this trial to other countries around the world where the Speedfactory will complement existing production facilities in China and Vietnam.
Beyond the futuristic video, details are thin on the ground but with the aid of research grants, it's highly likely that more Industry 4.0 projects will come to fruition.