Skip to Content

Your Next Pair of Nikes May Be Assembled by Static Electricity Robots


Partly, at least. Because Bloomberg reports that Grabit, which develops machines that pick up and manipulate materials using the same electroadhesion that allows you to stick a static-charged balloon to your sweater, is already supplying robots to the sportswear manufacturer. Nike had already invested in Grabit when we first wrote about the firm three years back, but the robots apparently arrived in factories last month and have since been helping to produce uppers of sneakers. And they’re pretty efficient. From Bloomberg:

Software decides the best way to stack pieces of the upper, then lights up portions of a glass table, showing its human partner where to set things down. A platform covered in electroadhesive pads descends to pick everything up, while cameras monitor the progress. The machine moves over to a partially finished shoe and turns the electric charge off, dropping them into the right configuration and feeding them into a heat press. It can take a human worker 10 to 20 minutes to arrange the pieces of the upper; Grabit’s machine does it in 50 to 75 seconds.

Nike expects to have a dozen of the machines working in its factories by the end of year—so your feet may soon be cosseted in their robot-crafted uppers. But Nike isn't the only company using robotics to build sneakers: Adidas has recently experimented with using 3-D printers to build the midsoles of some of its running shoes, too.