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September 15, 2022

Nike unveils robot-powered system to extend life of footwear

Sportswear brand Nike, Inc. is debuting a robot-augmented system in the Nike Town London store that is designed to clean and repair footwear with selected customisations in a bid to extend its lifecycle.

By Laura Husband

Nike, Inc, (Nike) explains the robot-powered system for footwear, which is called Bot Initiated Longevity Lab (B.I.L.L), is its latest experiment to help chart the way toward a more circular future.

B.I.L.L. joins Nike’s other sustainable services including Nike Recycling & Donation, Nike Refurbished and tutorial videos that aim to help consumers repair and restore their favourite footwear.

Nike says its circular vision includes products that are made with the intention of being reused, remade, rediscovered, and loved again as something brand new and extending the life of a product is a key component of that circular future.

The company continues to explore new solutions and is experimenting with tools and services that help extend the life of Nike products. 

Nike says: “Giving a product a second life reduces its environmental impact on the planet. This insight is what led to our latest innovation at retail: B.I.L.L., Bot Initiated Longevity Lab, debuting at Nike Town London.”

Nike NXT sustainability lead Noah Murphy-Reinhertz explains: “The thing is, maintaining old product is deeply personal. People will go to great lengths to care for their favourite shoes. Repairing a product is a way to extend our memory with a product. We see B.I.L.L. as a tool for being able to do that.”

He points out robots can do things that are tough to do by hand, but when Nike used robotics as part of recycling technology, it still wants the service to be personal.

Murphy-Reinhertz points out the service at the Nike Town London store is a pilot but Nike hopes it will provide valuable insights that will guide the future of sustainable services. 

He says: “As B.I.L.L. complements services like Nike Refurbished and Nike Recycling and Donation, Nike will continue experimenting with services that create a more personal bond between people and the products they love.”

How does Nike’s robot-powered system extend the life of footwear?

B.I.L.L. uses advanced robotics, old-school hand craft, water-based cleaning products and recycled polyester patches to extending the life of Air Force 1s, Air Jordan 1s, Space Hippie 01s, and Nike Dunks.

After loading a shoe into the robot, a three-dimensional digital model of the shoe is created, pinpointing detailed areas of cleaning on the upper, the sidewalls, and the outsole. Shoppers can then select patches to repair areas of wear-and-tear on the upper of their shoe. Once B.I.L.L. has finished with the shoes (all in all, B.I.L.L. takes about 45 minutes to process a pair of Air Force 1s), Nike store athletes add new liners and laces made from recycled materials.

B.I.L.L. is being offered as a free of charge service to consumers in the Nike Town London store throughout September.

Earlier this week Nike’s board of directors voted against a shareholder proposal to halt its sourcing of goods and raw materials from China as concerns surrounding human rights violations in Xinjiang continue to mount.

The company also recently unveiled what it says is its most significant apparel innovation since Dri-Fit, moving away from traditional knit and woven processes to develop Nike Forward, a material said to have lighter density than traditional knit fleece and comprised of 70% recycled content.

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