We asked Jon Naugle, owner and director of operations at SOLO, to share insight on how SOLO began printing 3D custom orthotics.
When did SOLO become interested in 3D printing?
3D printing technology, also known as additive technology, started in the 1980s in Japan. In the early 2000s, we watched the evolution and began to learn more about the technology. By about 2010, early 3D technology was available. We purchased a unit and began experimenting with the technology to learn more about it.
How did the early units compare to what SOLO has today?
The early units were small and produced just one item at a time. It was a basic form of 3D printing that extruded string similar to what is used on weed whackers. The end product was primitive and didn’t come close to meeting our needs. Both the time involved and the cost made it prohibitive to consider.
As technology improved, we invested in newer 3D printing technology. With each new printer, we learned new things. Each iteration produced an orthotic that was better than the previous one, but it still lacked the attributes we needed to make a quality orthotic. We recently donated our latest test printer to a local school, so it continues to teach others. (insert blog link)
What were your concerns about 3D printed custom orthotics?
SOLO will never compromise quality. We needed 3D printed orthotics to meet the same quality of our traditional custom orthotics. This required materials that were durable and flexible. The printing process had to be efficient and accurate. Getting all of these factors in place proved to be more challenging than we expected. As with most technology, we also waited for the technology to become more affordable.
Why did SOLO choose the HP Jet Fusion 3D 4210 printer?
HP is a pioneer and trusted leader in 3D technology. They are committed to supporting the transformation from traditional manufacturing to the future of digital manufacturing. This printer provides excellent dimensional accuracy and fine detail to produce truly predictable and reliable 3D printed devices. Replicating the characteristics and performance of SOLO orthotics was the most important factor in our selection.
Tells us about the material used in the process?
We use a plant-based material called PA-11. It has property characteristics similar to a blend of our Carboplast® with our Performance Rx nylon shells. This material produces strong, high-density parts. Additionally, 80% of the surplus powder is reusable, which means less waste.
We are here to answer your questions about 3D printed orthotics. We encourage you to try a pair of 3D printed custom orthotics and tell us what you think about this new technology.
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