Now, Steve Wood, and his company Gyrobot, have teamed with Recreus, the makers of Filaflex, to create 3D printed customizable insoles. We have seen 3D printed insoles before, so they are nothing new to those who frequently read about the latest news surrounding the 3D printing space. However, this is the first instance where we have seen the creation of insoles that virtually anyone could create and 3D print at home or in a doctor’s office (although recommended for trained professionals only).
While Wood tells us that this is just the start of the project, it appears as though it will provide quite a bit of potential for podiatrists looking to quickly generate insoles for patients.
“Both myself and Ignacio from Recreus are always trying to come up with new and imaginative ideas to use Filaflex, the most elastic filament for 3D printing,” explained Wood to 3DPrint.com. “Whilst exhibiting at the TCT show in Birmingham, UK a few weeks ago, I was approached by four different custom insole manufacturers and podiatrists, who were intrigued by the use of Filaflex during the live demonstration of shoe printing and the various pairs of sneakers and sandals that we were exhibiting. I ended up giving away a few sandals and shoes as a demonstration of the flexibility of the filament.”
Currently, the way in which most podiatrists prescribe and develop custom insoles is through outsourcing to CNC companies which end up cutting the products out of a solid brick of material. It is really the only legitimate way for smaller practice-based podiatrists to create these foot aids. We have seen companies like SOLS come about, offering the 3D printing of insoles, and so far it seems as though they have been rather successful. It still remains though, that this can be very pricey and the process can take quite a bit of time.
“What 3D printing has brought is the ability to become increasingly de-centralised and take some of that manufacturing in house close to the source (or destination),” Wood explained. “Podiatrists now armed with their own low cost 3D printer will be able to manufacture their own custom models themselves, supplied with Filaflex of course.”
During Wood’s discussions that he had at the TCT show, he offered to 3D print some custom insole models to show these manufacturers and podiatrists whether or not Filaflex would be a suitable candidate for this application. “I sliced the model in my [favorite] slicer CraftWare by CraftUnique and printed the models ‘Open Core’ so that the infill mesh is exposed, allowing for ventilation, something that would be more difficult if machined from a solid block,” Wood tells us. “I am in the process of printing out a few demo insoles to post out to some very interested parties within the industry.”
According to Wood, it only takes approximately one hour to print out an insole on the new Lewihe Sneaker 3D printer, using Filaflex filament. This would allow for podiatrists to see the results of their designs very quickly, especially when compared to more traditional means. A patient could even be waiting in the waiting room while the insole is printed. The complete customization aspects that 3D printing allows, means that it could become a far superior method when compared to more traditional means. As you can see in the video below, the density of the material can be altered, to add more cushion, more support, etc.
What do you think about the feasibility of 3D printing insoles? Will this become commonplace in podiatrist offices? Discuss in the 3D Printed Filaflex Insoles forum thread on 3DPB.com.