The concept of 3D printed custom-made shoes is far from new. The American Apparel & Footwear Association will tell you that the American population buys more shoes than any other nation on Earth. In the year 2013 alone, the average American bought 7.5 pairs of shoes. The average American woman will buy circa $20,500 worth, or 268 pairs, of shoes in their lifetime, a fifth of which will never be worn. Ergo, it is unsurprising that the world’s footwear industry is estimated to be worth $370 billion.
Founded in 2014, Wiivv of Canada has to date received $7.5 million in funding develop the concept of their custom-made sandals and/or insoles. All Wiivv products are 3D printed on-demand in their factory in San Diego, California. Wiivv is also doing some co-branding with footwear and foot care brand Dr Scholls of Chicago.
Phits of Belgium was established in 2014. As of late September 2018, they are collaborating with 3D printing company Materialise, also of Belgium, to make 3D printed shoe insoles. One can visit one of the many authorized dealers around the globe who use pressure plates to establish one’s gait. A 3D printer transforms the design into insoles and the 3D printed insoles are finished with a special shock-absorbing layer of material.
In September 2018, Mohd Javaid and Abid Haleem of the Jamia Millia Islamia University of Delhi, India published their work “Additive manufacturing applications in orthopaedics: A review” in the Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma. Founded in 2015, Additive Orthopaedics of Little Silver, New Jersey develops 3D printed orthopaedic devices. To date, they have 6 devices that have received clearance from the United States Food and Drug Administration, the latest being a bunion correction system.
With offices in the American and China, start-up OLT Footcare of Windsor, Ontario, Canada has become a company that claims to provide “the most advanced and comprehensive additive manufacturing solutions for foot orthotics available today.” They peddle a so-called “3D foot scanner + 3D printer” package for manufacturing custom foot orthotics by 3D printing.
RESA Wearables of Prescott, Arizona claims to offer kiosks that will 3D print shoes while one can shop elsewhere. Their name comes from the Swedish word “resa”, meaning to travel or to rise. They use a scanning system they developed themselves to do three-dimensional scans of a customer’s feet. Their insoles can be adapted to one’s activity level, medical need and/or foot structure. The customer’s insoles are 3D-printed with a special thermoplastic.
In conclusion, 3D printing is becoming increasingly heavily used in increasing numbers of niche areas like footwear and podiatry.
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