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The American sportwear manufacturer has announced its plans to open a 3D Liquid Factory in the U.S.
Previously, all Reebok’s footwear was manufactured in Asia but as from early 2017, the company plans to open its own Liquid Factory manufacturing lab in collaboration with AF Group located in Lincoln, RI. Although some components will be imported from Asia, these are to be mostly manufactured in Wixom, Michigan.
Developed by Reebok’s new innovation department, the Future Team, The Liquid Factory uses software and robotics to draw shoes in three dimensions. This process is then married with the proprietary liquid material, created especially for Reebok by BASF, to draw shoe componentry cleanly, precisely and in three-dimensional layers. The proprietary layering technique is then used to create “totally unique footwear, without the use of traditional molds”.
Together with Reebok, German chemical manufacturer BASF has developed a liquid material that is drawn across the outsole of the shoe for a three-dimensional fit with the help of 3D drawing.
Led by Bill McInnis, a former NASA engineer and Head of Future at Reebok, the first concept shoe from this manufacturing process is the Reebok Liquid Speed. Liquid Speed is an energy-return-focused running shoe that brings the outsole and lacing together in one piece.
"Footwear manufacturing hasn’t dramatically changed over the last 30 years,” said McInnis. “Every shoe from every brand is created using molds – an expensive, time-consuming process. With Liquid Factory, we wanted to fundamentally change the way that shoes are made. With this new process, we were able to program robots to create the entire shoe outsole, without molds, 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.
As previously reported by ILM, Adidas, Reebok’s parent company, Adidas has announced it will open a new footwear production site in the Atlanta area in 2017. The Speedfactory, a concept similar concept to the Liquid Factory, will allow Adidas to create product more quickly and closer to U.S. consumers.
On October 20, Reebok said it has hired German-American designer and lifestyle brand strategist Thomas Steinbruck as Creative Director for the company. Steinbruck formerly collaborated with Porsche Design, Elie Saab and Kenneth Cole.