fraunYou may have been fortunate enough not to have experienced the challenge of diabetes yourself, but chances are you know someone with this widespread disease and have witnessed at least a small glimpse into the struggles they suffer, caused by the body not producing the required amounts of insulin. Sometimes the ultimate struggle is just in remembering to take medications, but as diabetes progresses, often the feet become a central issue due to neuropathy. And when not addressed, serious consequences can follow.

3D printed insoles are something we are seeing more often now—and from an industry that is growing, from products emerging via companies such as Wiivv and iMcustom, to premium products in development as industry leaders collaborate. At the Fraunhofer Institutes for Mechanics of Materials IWM and Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT, researchers are working to make insoles for shoes that serve a very specific purpose. With the intention of improving on traditional practices, the research team is using 3D technology to make better progress for diabetes patients everywhere. Taking advantage of the benefits of both 3D software and 3D printing, they will be able to create customized insoles that are much more affordable than what was previously available. With these new insoles, shoemakers should also be able to assess insoles more comprehensively.

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[Image: Fraunhofer IWM]

Patients working to maintain life with diabetes need specialized help to take care of their feet once nerves have died and they can no longer feel these areas. Wounds happen much more easily, and fractures become much more common too. Insoles for the shoe that are soft and supportive can offer those with diabetes immense relief.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany is currently supporting LAUF (laser-assisted construction of customized footwear), the project for the 3D printed insoles. UMSICHT is not alone in this endeavor as they collaborate with others to see insoles improved, and made more accessible and affordable through 3D printing. These insoles should also satisfy insurance companies as well due to the ease in evaluating their mechanical properties.

Beginning with digital design using a CAD program, the researchers are able to test out a multitude of designs. They see their specific software processes being shared with numerous other technicians within two years or so.

 “Digital foot mapping is already common practice,” said IWM scientist Dr Tobias Ziegler. “Using newly developed software, the orthopedic shoemaker can design an insole for an individual patient and can print out the result on a 3D printer.”

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[Image: Fraunhofer IWM]

Industry partners Covestro and Lehamn&Voss&Co. have been working toward this goal for years now. They created TPU, to be used for applications such as the insoles, and are also working to make other materials that would help create comfortable insoles. IWM researchers have also been refining the structures further, in line with the use of TPU.

As all of these entities work together, those suffering from nerve damage in their feet can look forward to greater comfort in the future thanks to previously unheard of customization options, better pricing, speed in production, and the use of a variety of different materials. Discuss in the 3D Printed Insoles forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: TCT Magazine]

 

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