German sportswear maker Adidas is closing two factories in Germany and the United States and shifting manufacturing to cheaper Asian countries. These speed factories were using robots and 4D printing to make sneakers more quickly, more customised and closer to sales outlets. Adidas at one time saw these factories as proof that manufacturing jobs could return to high-wage countries. But now Adidas will get these speed factory shoes produced by its suppliers in Asia. It feels these suppliers have advanced techniques and that the move would make production of the shoes more flexible and economic while simultaneously expanding the range of products available.
As of now the two factories produce just a million of the roughly 400 million athletic shoes made by the group each year. The factory is operated by the German technology firm Oechsler, which has collaborated with Adidas on the project. But Oechsler and Adidas will continue to work together on soles for football shoes and 4D printed soles. Like 3D printing, 4D printing produces three-dimensional objects at the touch of a button but then goes further by creating materials that change properties when they come into contact with triggers such as water or heat.