Robots Use Static Electricity To Make Nike Shoes

Robots Use Static Electricity To Make Nike Shoes
Consumer Goods

Robotics startup Grabit uses static instead of "fingers" to gather materials and assembles Nikes at 20 times the pace of a human worker

Cristina DiGiacomo
  • 26 september 2017

Nike invested in startup Grabit, a robotics company that developed a new way to assemble the upper portion of the brand’s famous sneakers using static electricity. Grabit technology is different than a common robotic arm, as there are no “fingers” that grasp anything. Instead, there are pads on arms that generate a charge of static electricity so parts of the shoe material stick to each pad. It then stacks the pieces, still held together by static electricity, to be glued or stitched. This takes about 50 to 75 seconds, as opposed to the 10 or 20 minutes it would take for a person to do.

The Nike application is only the beginning. Back to the fact that Grabit robots don’t have the need for fingers, Grabit is being asked to solve for other manufacturing efficiencies. Greg Miller, Grabit’s CEO, told Bloomberg, “The things we’re getting pulled into, we’re getting pulled into because they can’t be done another way.”

For those concerned about the loss of manufacturing jobs because of Grabit, the technology is meant to work in conjunction with human labor, making people more efficient and supporting manpower. For example, Grabit software will guide an employee as to the best placement for pieces of the sneaker, and once placed, the static electricity charged pads carry the placed pieces to the next step. All of this is monitored by computers and cameras.

This indicates a big push among brands who rely on the manufacturing process to innovate. If efficiency issues can be solved, companies are more likely to move their production lines back into the U.S., where they are closer to consumer markets. This bodes well also for the U.S. labor market, increasing access to better manufacturing jobs closer to home.

Grabit also has its eyes on e-commerce. The company has created electroadhesive conveyor belts that can grip boxes and carry them in a vertical track. This is a big development since most warehouses and plants take up a lot of space for the movement of inventory and production.

“Same-day delivery is normal, it’s expected now if you’re in a tier one city,” Jim Kim of Builders VC, a Grabit investor, said. This means building warehouses in big cities, where space is tight and expensive. “Urban warehouses, by definition, are going to be in crowded areas. You’re only going to be able to grow vertically.”

Grabit | Nike

Nike invested in startup Grabit, a robotics company that developed a new way to assemble the upper portion of the brand’s famous sneakers using static electricity. Grabit technology is different than a common robotic arm, as there are no “fingers” that grasp anything. Instead, there are pads on arms that generate a charge of static electricity so parts of the shoe material stick to each pad. It then stacks the pieces, still held together by static electricity, to be glued or stitched. This takes about 50 to 75 seconds, as opposed to the 10 or 20 minutes it would take for a person to do.

+apparel
+Bloomberg
+cities
+consumer goods
+Fashion
+financial services
+fitness / sport
+home
+manufacturing
+nike
+retail
+Robotics
+Seamless Delivery
+technology
+Virtual Commerce
+work

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