Product Design Shorts: Reshoring Sport Shoes, Space Suits, and More




A batch of fresh product design stories, curated just for you.

Manufacturing 2.0

Adidas is reshoring the production of some of its training sports shoes with a novel manufacturing plants it calls a “Speedfactory.” This facility will use robots and other state-of-the-art machinery to create parts from raw materials and assemble them, all on site, thus reshoring some of the company’s manufacturing.  According to the Economist:

“Currently, trainers are made mostly by hand in giant factories, with people assembling components or shaping, bonding and sewing materials. The Speedfactory’s main strength is to shorten the supply chain, and so the time to shops, to less than a week, perhaps even to a day, once the trainer design is complete.”

Remarkably, the Speedfactory will make most of the parts itself from raw materials, such as plastics, fibres, and other basic substances.

The new Adidas smart factory brings manufacturing home

It’s here: 3D mixed with manufacturing and quick prototype turnarounds. Photo: Adidas.

 

Material Success, Part I: Lighter, Cooler (Literally) Space Suits

Speaking of stylish, Boeing recently announced a new spacesuit for NASA’s Starliner. Sure, it looks cool (and comfortable) but the new design is all about the materials. It can pass water vapor out of the suit, away from the astronaut, but keep air inside. That makes the suit cooler (as in temperature) without sacrificing safety.

Materials in the elbows and knees give astronauts more movement, too, while strategically located zippers allow them to adapt the suit's shape when standing or seated. The full suit weighs about 20 pounds with accessories. Sounds heavy, but remember, previous suits worn by astronauts weighed at least 10 pounds more! 


Space suit

Sure, the lightweight materials are the star of the new suit. But, it also comes with technology like touchscreen-friendly gloves. Photo: Boeing

And if you ever feel like you’re current project is dragging on, consider this: Teams worked on this suite for decades, including design, development, testing and evaluation insight.  

Material Success, Part II: Flakey Graphene

A team of researchers at MIT have designed one of the “strongest lightweight materials known,” by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5%, can have a strength 10 times that of steel.

Two-dimensional materials — basically flat sheets that are just one atom thick but can be infinitely large in the other dimensions — have exceptional strength as well as unique electrical properties. But because of their extraordinary thinness, “they are not very useful for making 3D materials that could be used in vehicles, buildings, or devices. What we’ve done is to realize the wish of translating these 2D materials into three-dimensional structures,” says Markus Buehler, the head of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).

The 3D graphene material ends up behaving much like sheets of paper, say researchers. Alone, paper has little strength. But when made into certain shapes, for example rolled into a tube, suddenly the strength is much greater and can support substantial weight.

How does this translate in your design and engineering world? At some point though, the possibilities could include “large-scale structural materials.” That’s pretty exciting.


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