A 3D Revolution in Orthopedic Footwear

Orthopedic shoes and orthotics are not always synonymous with comfort and style! They have historically been designed more for practicality than they have for fashion, and this has led to them not traditionally being desirable to wear! However, there is one woman who is setting out to change all of this using 3D printing technology.

Kegan Schouwenburg is the CEO and Co-Founder of SOLS, a company that is working to incorporate 3D printing with orthopedic footwear. At just 29 years old, Kegan is already a trailblazer in the industry and states that one thing in particular that motivates her to do what she does is that she does not want "orthotic to be a dirty word". Having grown up wearing orthotics, she believes that everyone should be empowered by their footwear to “walk further, run faster, jump higher and dance longer”.

Fashion, Comfort and Functionality!

SOLS has recently reached its first birthday and the company already has an impressive $8.5 million behind it. Through a careful balance of fashion, comfort and functionality, the SOLS shoes are set to revolutionise orthopedic footwear, bringing a touch of style and ease to those who need it!

The concept itself all gets started on an iPad with an app that takes six photographs of the customers foot. The app is then able to assess the customers measurements and create data points. These data points are then communicated to the 3D printer. This is when the physical printing process begins. As this is completely digital, the time it takes from taking the photos to the beginning of the printing process is less than ten minutes. The additional benefits of an entirely digital process are that there is minimal waste and overheads are kept down.

The company is currently only offering their services through medical channels. However, as they continue to expand, they intend to make a mobile app available that customers can access directly. This will allow them to take their own photographs and then be given access to a reduced price prescription. When we consider how expensive orthopedic footwear can be, this potential for aligning cost and quality is extremely exciting.

If you don’t wear orthopedic shoes, or use orthotics, then you may not understand the struggle faced by those who do. With the progress that SOLS is making in their cool and comfortable orthopedic shoe mission, you may not ever have to!

Orthopedic Footwear

Orthopedic shoes are especially designed to correctly support the feet and provide pain relief to those who need it. There are many reasons why a person might need to wear orthopedic shoes, such as those who have mobility issues, or health conditions connected to the health or form of the feet. 

What is 3D Printing?

For those of you who don’t know, 3D printing is the process of making a three dimensional physical object from a digitally created file. It has exploded in popularity in recent years for a wide range of reasons and is bringing innovation and incredible developments to many industries!

3D printing technology has been in development since the 1980’s, and was first known as Rapid Prototyping (RP). This original name came about due to 3D printing being perceived as a more efficient method of making prototypes for product development.

Over the last few decades 3D printing technology has developed at an exciting rate within many industries. During the 90’s this technology was incredibly expensive and exclusive. It wasn’t until 2007 that the a 3D printer that cost under $10,000 was introduced to the market. This reduction in price was seen to be the key to opening up this technology to a wider variety of sectors for a wider variety of purposes! It was certainly around this time, when the technology became more affordable, that it also became more visible to a wider audience!

Two years later, in 2009, the first commercially available 3D printer went on sale, bringing this incredible technology to homes around the world! After this point, many similar devices started to become available and the concept became even more popular around the globe.

The possibilities for the development of 3D printing over the next few years are seemingly endless! There has been discussion, and indeed research into the potential, of using this technology to 3D print medication, food, body parts and more! It is clear that the possibility of many areas of our lives to be revolutionised and made more efficient by this technology exist!

References

1) http://www.forbes.com/sites/deniserestauri/2014/10/23/meet-the-woman-whos-using-3d-printing-to-make-your-shoes-cool-and-comfortable

2) http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing