The healthcare industry is already making use of 3D printing technologies to print casts, tracheal splints, ears, prostheses, and even cells. Now, a New York-based company wants to print the insoles in your shoes to reduce foot pain and improve posture. Sols Systems has raised US$1.75 million of seed financing from Lux Capita to bring its custom orthotics to market.
Custom insoles are nothing new, but, unlike traditional means of foot mapping, Sols lets users take a scan of their feet with a smartphone app and submit the scans directly to the company's database, reducing the time required for the production process. After an initial check is carried out to verify the data, the scans are converted to 3D models of a user's feet, from which personalized insoles are then printed.
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The insoles themselves are made from ﬂexible nylon and are dyed to the user's own choice of color. They are coated in an antimicrobial layer that aims to reduce foot odor. Gizmag spoke to founder and CEO of Sols Kegan Schouwenburg who explained how they differ from other orthotics.
"Right now, when a doctor prescribes a pair of orthotics they generally send a paper form, with two casts of the persons feet, to a lab," she says. "The multiple human touch points in the process leave room for error."
"Foot mapping provides a pressure map of the foot," Schouwenburg continues. "At Sols, we are replacing the need for casts and fiberglass models of the foot with a 3D model collected via a series of complex algorithms. Our 3D scans are made up of hundreds of thousands of unique individual points across the foot and ankle."
According to Schouwenburg, the Sols insole returns up to 75 percent of the energy in each footstep, an achievement she describes as "huge." She also outlined a number of other areas in which Sols offer benefits to the user, including the ability to adjust the shape of the insoles to improve alignment, factoring in user weight and activity level to vary the properties of the insoles, and incorporating a "two-part spring system" to help a wearer to move more easily throughout the day.
Sols is targeting both the consumer and medical sectors. As well as a consumer line with a focus on performance and comfort, the company plans to develop a line aimed at corrective treatment. Over the next year, it also plans to release additional app features to allow for real-time visualization of the final product, along with the effect that any changes will make to a user's bio-mechanical alignment and gait.
Sols will launch in the first half of 2014. You can see a product overview in the video below.