3D Printed Orthotics to Help with Foot Pain
For good reason, many foot specialists across the world are turning to 3D printing to make orthotic insoles for their patients. The ability to design a device that is more personalized, precise, and aesthetic than current orthotic products is fascinating and advances the industry.
The next few sections of this article provide more information about 3D printed orthotics, and how this technology has helped in the orthotics industry.
What are 3D Printed Orthotics?
3D printed orthotics are medical devices worn inside shoes to alleviate biomechanical foot abnormalities that affect how a person walks, runs, or stands. These devices are useful for relieving pain caused by medical conditions such as flat feet, high arches, heel spurs, bunions, and plantar fasciitis.
Since its first commercialization many years ago, 3D printing has developed in so many ways and is now very beneficial to us. It has become a standard in numerous production areas, including medical, aerospace, and automotive, to mention a few. Due to its inherent benefits, manufacturers working under the highest quality controls and hobbyists alike have grown to appreciate and rely on this technology.
When it comes to applications such as orthotics, 3D printed orthotics have set a benchmark in treatment, pain alleviation, and comfort, and they are vastly different from over-the-counter and traditional foot orthotics.
How Do Custom Orthotics Help with Foot Pain?
Orthotics are shoe inserts. They effortlessly slip into your shoes and are meant to reduce stress on your ankles, feet, and knees by cushioning the impact. They have a direct impact on how your toes, ball of the foot, and heel interact with the sole of your shoe.
They act as shock absorbers, taking strain and tension off sore parts of the foot and ankle. They can also help to prevent or slow the progression of foot deformities, help place the foot inside the shoe in the right position, and improve the general movement of the foot and lower leg.
There are a variety of custom orthotics available, but there are three main varieties that each perform a different job in treating foot pain: those that protect the foot to lessen pain or discomfort, those that change how the foot works, and those that perform both functions.
The following are the three main types of custom orthotics and how they help alleviate foot pain.
- Rigid custom orthotics
Rigid custom orthotics are usually printed with a firm material like plastic or carbon fiber and are used to control foot function. The main purpose of these orthotics is to regulate motion in two important foot joints that are located right below the ankle joint. This type of orthotic is frequently used to alleviate or eliminate lower back, thigh, and leg pain caused by improper foot function.
- Semirigid orthotics
This type of orthotics is used most often by athletes. Semirigid orthotics provide dynamic foot balance when jogging or participating in sports. It allows the muscles and tendons in the foot to act more efficiently by guiding the foot through proper functions. It is made up of layers of soft materials that are reinforced with harder materials.
- Soft orthotics
This type of orthotics helps to absorb shock, enhance balance, and relieve pressure on sore or uncomfortable areas. Soft orthotics are usually made with soft, compressible materials. They are particularly useful for arthritis or abnormalities in which protective fatty tissue on the side of the foot has been lost. They are also beneficial to diabetic patients.
You must know that custom orthotics, or standard orthotics, will not suddenly cure all of your foot problems. They simply make adjustments to make it feel better.
Consider orthotics to be similar to glasses. If you have bad eyesight and put on a pair of glasses, your eyesight is immediately corrected. However, if you remove them, you will still have impaired vision but your vision will have been corrected for the period you were wearing glasses. Orthotics, like glasses, are a solution to a larger problem.
So, if you're suffering from any form of foot pain, custom orthotics could be a simple but effective way to relieve the strain or stress on your feet for the period when you have them on.
Going back to the glasses example, the wrong glasses will not correct a person’s impaired vision- the correct lens is needed to correct the eye defect. In the same manner, you will need to see a foot specialist to recommend the right type of orthotics for your foot problem.
Are 3D Printed Orthotics Better?
3D printed orthotics aren't the only kind of orthotics you can find. There are also those made using traditional production techniques designed without the patient’s specificity, and therein lies the advantage of 3D printed orthotics.
Small, medium, or large has never been the best method to prescribe medical devices like orthotics.
Each patient is distinct. They're designed differently, move differently, and require orthotics that reflect that. Traditional manufacturing techniques may face this problem, however, 3D printing does not.
The design and printing process is entirely digital, and this enables foot and ankle experts to build a one-of-a-kind design and then print multiple pairs of orthotics at the same time, each one unique, making it a viable mass production option.
This additional level of customization provides patients with a flawless fit and happier feet with every stride.
Experts can achieve this because every 3D printed orthotic starts with a computer-aided design (CAD) file which is based on the patient’s data-specifically dynamic measurements. Rather than designing modifications based on a single scan of a patient's foot, this technology relies on many data, including gait and pressure to produce a patient’s perfect fit.
As a result, foot specialists can create orthotics that are specific to each patient (depending on their movement and the form of their foot) with greater accuracy than ever before, while remaining pleasant, lightweight, and durable.
Given all of these, we can say that 3D printing of orthotics is indeed better than the traditional method of producing orthotics.
How Much are 3D Printed Orthotics?
Orthotics manufactured with 3D printing technology ranges in price from $300 to $400 for each pair, compared to $60 to $80 for traditional orthotics. The price difference may appear large, but you should consider custom orthotics as an investment that will pay your body back significantly over time and help you save money in the long run.
While non-custom orthotics are less expensive, they are frequently produced with unreliable and low-quality materials and are not tailored to address your unique problems, causing you to spend more money to get relief.
What Companies are Currently Producing 3D Printed Orthotics?
Several companies and professionals manufacture orthotics for their clients using computer gait scans and 3D technologies. However, you must be cautious in your selection because some "professionals" out there are just taught for a few days on the system and have little to no experience with the actual fabrication of orthotics.
To save you time and effort, we've compiled a list of companies that are now producing 3D-printed orthotics.
- HP Arize Orthotic Solutions
When you hear HP, PCs, laptops, printers, and other electronic devices come to mind. Recently, the company has veered towards the health industry to deal with health concerns-orthosis to be more precise. The company calls this new venture Arize Orthotics Solution and describes it as “a new end-to-end digital orthotic solution for podiatrists and orthotists.”
HP's Arize Orthotic Solution combines 3D printing technology with cloud-based software to aid in the designing and manufacture of custom orthoses and supports.
When the designs are finalized, they are sent to a manufacturing facility where the orthotics are made out of various materials depending on the patient’s need. HP Multi Jet printers are used in the production facility.
Orthotics devices for sports, function, stability, and everyday comfort are among some of the designs provided.
- RS Print
RSScan and Materialise formed RS Print in 2014 after a hunt for the ultimate personalized insoles using dynamic gait analysis and high-tech 3D printing technology. Phits Insoles, one of the top 3D printed insoles on the market, is manufactured by RS print.
Currently, in the world of orthotics, RS Print is seen as a game-changer, ready to set a new standard for patient care, expert empowerment, and technological advancement.
Invent Medical owns the brand 8sole. 8sole is a brand whose mission is to introduce the next generation of foot orthotics to patients all over the world, offering far greater comfort, a better user experience, functionality, and biomechanical control. The 8sole orthopedic insoles were developed to alleviate a variety of foot postural abnormalities. They are custom-made using a 3D printer and are created with expert knowledge of biomechanics.
8sole is a red dot award-winning brand that uses 3D printing technology to create high-quality orthotics that exactly fit patients' needs.
Conclusion On a final note, we can all conclude that the integration of 3D printing into the orthotic device manufacturing workflow has helped to propel the industry forward for everyone's benefit. It's a significant step forward for those who design orthotics, and even more significant for individuals who use them.