3-D Printer Orthotics: The Next Frontier for Podiatry Care
Posted by Jenn F. on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Once again, our very own Josef J. Geldwert, DPM, director of The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, is on the cutting edge of technology. We’re pleased to announce Dr. Geldwert has been appointed an adviser to SOLS, a new 3-D printed orthotics company. The New York company is the first of its kind, so they’re borrowing from Dr. Geldwert’s 40+ years of experience in podiatry to bring custom printed orthotics to the masses. Is this the next frontier for foot doctors in New York?
What Is 3-D Printing?
In a Harvard Business Review article titled “3-D Printing Will Change the World,” they explain the futuristic concept of 3-D printing as follows:
“It is a small evolutionary step from spraying toner on paper to putting down layers of something more substantial (such as plastic resin) until the layers add up to an object.”
Instead of printing an image on a piece of paper, a 3-D printer can create an object based on instructions entered into the computer. What this essentially means is that anyone with a 3-D printer can create manufactured goods in-house, rather than outsourcing.
Harvard Review tells us this technology also means that goods “will be infinitely more customized, because altering them won’t require retooling, only tweaking the instructions in the software.”
Since the company was founded in June 2013, New York based start-up SOLS has been making headlines, with mentions such publications as Wired and The Wall Street Journal. The company is run by Pratt Institute grad Kegan Schouwenburg who says she wants to transform the orthotics shoe insert industry from something that is “boring, sweaty, and gross” into something “sexy.”
After spending several years as an independent designer beloved by the likes of Urban Outfitters, she became involved with 3-D printing shop Shapeways, where she oversaw a 25,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Having always suffered with “bad feet” and growing up wearing orthotics, Schouwenburg took a leap of faith and started SOLS, which has already earned $1.75 million dollars of venture capital and trials in 15 podiatrist offices.
As you may have heard, Dr. Scholl’s has placed “smart” kiosks in pharmacies to help consumers find proper-fitting orthotics. However, SOLS reportedly “wants to push the technology further to incorporate gait patterns and impact forces,” reports Wired Magazine. This data, when combined with standard biometrics, should ultimately help people improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.
The Wall Street Journal says the SOLS insoles are made of a new material — light, springy anti-microbial nylon that has only been available for a few years. People will be able to choose their favorite colors, polished leather, and name inscription for a truly customized product.
What Can 3-D Printed Orthotics Do for New Yorkers?
Traditionally, to get a pair of orthotics to treat foot pain like plantar fasciitis, a New Yorker visits a podiatrist’s office and has a footprint cast inside a foam box, or has a plaster cast wrapped onto their foot, like a mummy. The doctor checks off boxes on a form to indicate the necessary adjustments. The cast and information is sent to a factory, where a technician creates the insoles and mails them back to the podiatrist weeks later. After testing the orthotics on the patient, adjustments may be needed. Errors are plentiful, says Schouwenburg. “I can go to Dr. A and get an orthotic, and get a totally different orthotic from Dr. Z,” she explains. The process is manual and costly — more than $600, all told.
Instead, SOLS will enable podiatrists to create orthotic scans in-house for consumers. A New Yorker will put on a specialized striped sock while an iPad scans the foot. The SOLS app takes hundreds of photos of the feet and stitches them together into a virtual model — all within 30 seconds. Modifications can then be entered into a web-based tool. The final product is made on a 3-D printer at a SOLS manufacturing facility and sent back within days.
In the future, the company hopes to allow customers of partners, like Zappos, customize orthotics based on scans taken by iPhones, so shoe soles can be altered before being shipped.
Dr. Geldwert is happy to lend his expertise to such an exciting endeavor. He would also like to help any New Yorker in need of custom orthotics. Book an appointment for his Manhattan or White Plains offices.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.