3D printing has made amazing things possible in the field of medicine, but obviously many of those things aren’t possible for the average maker to create at home. 3D printing may be democratizing manufacturing, but it’s not necessarily democratizing medicine, and that’s a good thing, for the most part; as much as I love making things for myself, I’d still rather a medical professional handle my knee replacement, should I ever need one.
There are exceptions, however. While things such as implants and other surgical procedures are best left to the professionals, there have been some incredible, life-changing devices created by average makers with no special medical training – just look at the e-NABLE community, for instance. 3D printed prosthetics fill our headlines constantly, and while they tend to make for some of the most interesting stories, they’re not the only assistive devices that have been made vastly more accessible by 3D technology.
Insoles may not be the most glamorous thing in the world, but their importance shouldn’t be overlooked. Properly fitting, well-made insoles can make all the difference for a person suffering from foot, leg or back pain, and 3D scanning and printing has made it increasingly easier and cheaper to produce orthotics and insoles customized to the individual wearer.
Design engineer Steve Wood of Gyrobot Limited has been responsible for some of the most innovative, interesting 3D printed insole technology we’ve seen – such as the thermoformed Flexy-Form insoles. He’s also designed some remarkable 3D printed prosthetic devices. Now he’s come up with a new invention that makes custom insoles even more accessible to the average person. Gensole is a free, browser-based tool that allows you to design your own insoles, optimized for FDM 3D printing using TPE/TPU materials such as Filaflex.
Users can either upload their own foot scan, or they can work with one of Gensole’s templates to design their insoles. The adjustable templates can be altered to fit the user’s needs (see instructions here). The tool was developed through a combination of four technologies that Gyrobot has been researching:
- Form-fitting insole utilizing “Solemorph,” a process that shapes the upper surface of the insole to match a foot scan
- Variable density insoles, printed with areas of thicker or thinner mesh to offset high-pressure areas
- Open/closed core insoles, which allow the option of including perforated holes in the upper or surfaces for better airflow and stimulation of blood cells
- Shoe profiling, which enables the adjustment of insole curves to match individual shoes
“There has been a lot of development work with 3D printing insoles in the past couple of years by Gyrobot, and now is the time to separate a branch of that work out to a dedicated site,” says Wood. “Gensole is the resulting package that takes all that knowledge and wraps it up into an easy to use software design and print solution.”
While the templates do not include the capability to design orthotic corrections, you can add your own corrective elements by uploading and modifying a foot scan, as shown in the video below:
Once you’ve designed your insole, Gensole will export the .AMF file to Slic3r, where it can then be sliced and printed at home or at your local 3D Hub. Wood has also uploaded the basic insole files to Thingiverse, in case you’d like to print them out and get a feel for them before designing your own. He also encourages all users to upload and share their own makes to Thingiverse for the community to see. Are you interested in new insoles? Discuss over in the 3D Printed insoles forum at 3DPB.com.