As the industry of 3D printing grows and indeed begins transforming manufacturing, consumers have a lot to look forward to on the personal front in terms of customized products that are not only more affordable but of even higher quality in many cases.
Apparel and footwear are two areas of growing interest, as there are so many different shapes, sizes, and needs in the world to accommodate. Footwear is an even more important medium for manufacturers, as well as buyers, to assess, as whether we are walking, running, cycling, or hiking, feet are an important part of getting us where we need to go–often taken for granted and not duly appreciated for all the work they do.
With production of 3D printed insoles, however, the foot is about to get the attention it deserves. And in a recent announcement, it appears that Wiivv Wearables Inc. of Vancouver is gaining their earned time in the spotlight as well, with an influx of capital coming in from Evonik Venture Capital, the venture capitalist arm of Germany’s Evonik Industries AG. While the amount is yet undisclosed, it is known that soon Wiivv will begin producing 3D printed biomechanically optimized insoles which are indeed able to offer specific customization depending on individual requirements.
The investment deal was also supported by financial investor Formation 8, from Silicon Valley, and Real Ventures, the largest seed investor in Canada. Evonik, in working to find additional startups offering true breakthroughs, currently also has holdings in five startups and three funds.
“We’re delighted to have gained in Evonik a strategic investor with extensive technical and materials science expertise in 3D printing with polyamide 12,” said Shamil Hargovan, one of the founders of Wiivv.
While mass production via 3D printing is certainly something we’ve all been waiting for in the footwear industry, looking to see customization options grow and further comfort our often barking dogs, Wiivv is still on the cutting edge for sure, without much competition in this fledgling area. What sets Wiivv apart and allows them to get in on this technology–and business–first, is the unique software they have developed–along with their commitment to inspiring everyone to run faster, jump higher, and live a better life overall.
Allowing for mass production, Wiivv’s software–developed along with a team of biomechanics researchers–is able to take an image of your foot and then develop the perfect insole for it–straight off the 3D printer. Much like the procedure medical professionals use for constructing 3D models to be used in various procedures, once the image or scan of the foot is completed, a 3D file is created. The benefits are obvious, as the product can be made so quickly and also tweaked according to consumer needs.
In terms of materials, Evonik comes into play again. As one of the leaders worldwide in producing polyamide 12 for 3D printing, they are conveniently able to work as a supplier of the material for Wiivv.
“Wiivv’s business is an ideal match for Evonik,” says Dr. Bernhard Mohr, head of Venture Capital at Evonik. “Through our investment in Wiivv, we’re supporting the market launch of one of the first individualized mass-produced articles to be manufactured by 3-D printing. This also gives Evonik access to the highly innovative growth market for wearables, which are electronics worn on the body.”
Along with the primary benefits offered, Wiivv will soon also be able to get even more futuristic with the insole designs by inserting electronics into the 3D printed wearables, allowing for integrated sensors that can record movement data and help with choreographing and sequencing strategic movements in sports. Another way the data would be helpful is in being able to track and then predict weariness in employees who are on their feet all day, like factory and industrial workers of many types.
To say that production becomes more efficient is really an understatement, but that’s almost always the case with 3D printing and manufacturing. Designing a model, according to Wiivv, is cut down from a few hours to literally just a few seconds instead. Customers are not inconvenienced in the process either as they can just send several photos from their phone, which are enough to kick off 3D printing of their high quality insoles. This new wave of the future is leading to a better way of working, purchasing, and manufacturing for all involved–saying goodbye to miserable manual methods that usually take hours, yielding lesser results.
The global market volume for insoles is currently a multi-billion dollar industry, growing in the US at four to five percent annually. According to Evonik, along with this venture, they also still plan to infuse an additional €100 million into startups they deem to have the greatest potential with innovation in technology, focusing on Europe, the US, and Asia.
How do you see 3D printing transforming the footwear and insole industry? Discuss in the Wiivv 3D Printed Insoles forum thread over at 3DPB.com.