3D printing is touted in the footwear industry for creating opportunities for customization. As demonstrated in the story below, custom shoes go beyond picking your preferred color palette and style: they can actually offer better comfort and support to wearers that need it.
Imre Patterson is a young boy living in California who was born with a femoral discrepancy, meaning that one leg is shorter than the other. The condition has not stopped Imre from having an active and energetic lifestyle, but it has created some challenges, as conventional foam orthotics tend to be very heavy. To make things easier for their son, Imre’s parents decided to explore the potential of 3D printing to make custom 3D printed orthotics.
The family reached out to Dinsmore Inc., an Irvine, CA based 3D printing services provider with nearly three decades of experience. After hearing what the Patterson family was looking for, the Dinsmore team got to work developing a custom orthotic that was suitable for 3D printing. Leveraging HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology and PA12, the service bureau 3D printed a first version of a lattice midsole, which was both lighter and more durable than Imre’s more traditional foam boot.
Though mostly effective, the 3D printed shoe made using HP’s technology was not the best fit for Imre’s active lifestyle, as it was too flexible. To address this, Dinsmore turned to what is quickly becoming one of the most popular 3D printing technologies in the footwear market: Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology.
The second version of the midsole was thus 3D printed using a DLS 3D printer and an elastomeric polyurethane-based material. The lattice midsole was also customized to fit with shoes provided by Decker Brand, which were 3D scanned at the SEMA Garage by Conner Morris. The scan data enabled the Dinsmore team to create a CAD model of the midsole which was fitted and bonded to Imre’s TEVA and UGG shoes.
As Imre will continue to grow, it will be necessary to create new 3D printed midsoles to fit inside new pairs of shoes. However, this likely won’t necessitate going back to the drawing board every time. As Jason Lopes, Production Development Engineer at Carbon, said: “As he grows bigger, we can put a scale model on it. Jay Dinsmore, Founder and CEO of Dinsmore Inc., added: “As Imre grows, we can take the baseline of what we’ve already done, modify that lattice structure, and create another midsole.”
Imre, as one can imagine, was eager to try on the 3D printed lattice midsoles in place of his more traditional foam boot. According to Lopes, he is also the first kid to go through that type of workflow!