Automatic custom manufacture of sports shoes and textiles

Brief description

Automated custom production is being developed in the SPEEDFACTORY research project where humans and machines are working together in a common working environment to produce sports goods and car seat covers in the shortest possible time, from the design to the final product at a low-cost and in a flexible manner.

The challenge

Textile products have been produced for decades in two different scenarios: They are manufactured either at low cost in huge quantities in industrial mass production or at considerable expense in small numbers in less automated settings. The value chains in the fashion and sports industry are globally networked. Product management, design and production often take place on different continents. Optimisation cycles or changes in appearance and textile properties or composition are both time-consuming and call for a high degree of flexibility from the stakeholders involved. The logistic challenges of a value chain that requires a permanent exchange of information, design suggestions, patterns and finished products between Asia and Europe make high-quality production both difficult and expensive. Short model cycles or low-cost small-series production are almost impossible, but are becoming increasingly necessary due to customer demands. With current production processes, this trend towards low-price customising is neither economically nor technically possible.


The SPEEDFACTORY project aims to combine the various advantages of the different production approaches in one new method. The aim is industrial micro-mass production down to batch size 1. Using the latest technologies and enhanced man-machine interaction, short cycle times are to be achieved combined with outstanding flexibility. The goal is to avoid transactions across different continents. The production of fashion and sports goods is to be increasingly brought back to Europe. Competitive strength is to be stepped up through shorter logistics channels (physical and informative) and hence by a faster response to customer requests and fashion trends.


The project partners expect to achieve prototype production of sports textiles and shoes and of seat covers for vehicles using innovative production processes without any losses in value added. This calls for smart factory concepts with a high degree of automation and cognitive skills among the workers interacting with the machines. Certain production steps will first be modularised in order to make processes more efficient. The co-ordination and control of the individual modules are largely automated and distributed. The use of individual materials, which up to now could not be processed by automated machines, will be extremely important for workers and their interaction with the production robots. Economically sound interaction between man and machine only becomes possible when innovative sensor technology, ambient intelligence and cognition are used in conjunction with augmented reality.

Use case

As part of this project, a factory demonstrator will supply prototypes to show the new production options.

Partners: adidas AG (consortium leader), fortiss GmbH, Johnson Controls GmbH, KSL Keilmann Sondermaschinenbau GmbH, RWTH Aachen

Contact person

adidas Group

Jan Hill