ABB Robots Help to Create Unique Footwear


KEEN, an outdoor and lifestyle footwear brand, created UNEEK footwear to not only innovate the design of the shoe but also the process by which it is made. KEEN has collaborated with House of Design, LLC, an ABB Robotics Value Provider,  to develop a unique automation cell for the UNEEK footwear manufacturing process. "From its inception, UNEEK was never about a single shoe, but rather the idea of establishing an entirely new platform within the footwear industry,” said Rory Fuerst, Jr., KEENS Director of Innovation. This UNEEK Robotic cell can produce a shoe in half the time of the current production process, which opens up a world of opportunity for the UNEEK footwear franchise.

UNEEK’s goal is to reach unmatched levels of comfort. These shoes are created as two ABB IRB 120 robots weave two completely independent, interlocking cords together to create an entirely new footwear experience. This design is suppose to naturally conform to the shape of a person’s foot, creating unrivaled levels of comfort.

The IRB 120 IRC5 is the perfect, portable robot to integrate for practically any job.  It is a compact, small, six-axis, multipurpose robot that has a payload of 3 kg and a reach of 580 mm. It is a true representation of the phrase “big things come in small packages” as this robot has all the functionality of ABB robots and can outperform larger counterparts by offering features not found elsewhere. The IRB 120 takes advantage of the power IRC Compact controller for extreme accuracy and motion control in a smaller package. 

With a light aluminum body, combined with powerful compact motors, this robot arm has the ability to move with speed and precision. In addition, cables are routed inside the arm to eliminate interference and ensure integration flexibility. Floor space is not an issue as this robot has the ability to be mounted at any angle, making it ideal for placement into tight spots.  This ensures the reduction of the footprint of robotic cells. 

The UNEEK Robotic Cell is capable of producing a UNEEK shoe in half the time (with just as much integrity!) as the current production process. This automation solution offers expansive flexibility and speed.

UNEEK’s automation success is a reflection of the way KEEN is able to innovate and push new boundaries to disrupt the industry. While KEEN has multiple ABB robots at its manufacturing facility to handle machine tending or material handling applications, the UNEEK cell is not quite ready  to go directly on the production line. However, this is just the beginning of the automation revolution for footwear. The robot’s flexibility, performance, and speed will push KEEN, and potentially other manufacturers, to continue to explore future automation for a multitude of applications.

“We appreciate the innovative application of robotic automation developed by House of Design and KEEN,” said John Bubnikovich, ABB’s vice president of sales and marketing, robots and applications. “It is a prime example of the great dexterity of industrial robots, and how they can be used for more intricate, almost custom work, in addition to handling the high volume, repetitious work for which they are mainly known.”

At RobotWorx, we are ready to help you increase your ROI and move your company towards automation. RobotWorx, a certified integrator for ABB, have representatives ready online or  at 740-251-4312 to address any questions you may have.

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