Adidas-owned sports brand Reebok International has unveiled plans to open a high-tech US manufacturing lab – dubbed The Liquid Factory. WGSN Global News Editor Nigel Taylor reports
Reebok’s Liquid Factory is set to open early next year, creating footwear using innovative liquid material and 3D Drawing that eliminates the need for moulds.
The innovation has been developed by the Reebok Future Team, with the Liquid Factory set to use state-of-the-art software and robotics to draw high-performance athletic footwear in three dimensions. German chemical giant BASF and Reebok developed the liquid material, which helps absorb shock, which is drawn across the outsole of the shoe for the three-dimensional fit.
A prototype Liquid Speed shoe has been designed and assembled in the US and created with a three-way collaboration between Reebok, BASF and RAMPF Group in Wixom, Michigan. Final assembly for the shoe took place at Reebok Headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts.
Reebok is releasing the Liquid Speed with a limited edition 300 pair production run. Each of the pairs is individually numbered, tagged and boxed, available on Reebok and FinishLine websites for $189.50.
“This is the very first use of this process to make athletic footwear,” said Bill McInnis, former NASA engineer and Head of Future at Reebok, admitting its was “borrowed and enhanced” from a process found in the automotive industry.
“With this new process, we were able to programme robots to create the entire shoe outsole, without moulds, by drawing in layers with a high-energy liquid material to create the first ever energy-return outsole, which performs dramatically better than a typical rubber outsole,” he added.
“Once we define a manufacturing cell, we can do it anywhere,” McInnis also noted, adding: “Scaling up is a matter of installing more Liquid Factory machine setups. The local manufacturing also gets us much closer to the consumer in terms of speed to market… Liquid Factory is not just a new way of making things, it’s a new speed of making things.”
Parent Adidas announced in May it was opening a production site operated mostly by robots in Ansbach, Germany, due to begin mass production next year. A second site is due to open next year in the US.
*Reebok has appointed industry veteran designer Thomas Steinbrück to the post of creative director. He will oversee the creative direction for the company’s footwear and apparel collections by setting trends, creating themes and providing inspiration and guidance to the design teams, the company said.
Previously, Steinbrück has held senior creative roles at Porsche Design, Elie Saab and Kenneth Cole.
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