Manufactured vs 3D Printed Custom Orthotics

Jonathan Naugle, owner and director of operations at SOLO, answers questions about how and why 3D printing technology is changing the manufacturing landscape for custom orthotics.

Why is 3D or additive technology different than traditional manufacturing?

I see 3D as supporting the transformation from traditional manufacturing to a future of digital, more accurate manufacturing. The potential for what this new technology can do is nearly limitless. It enables the development of new 3D printed materials and holds promise for future opportunities for smart orthotics with embedded electronics, integrated traceability and intelligence.

Speed is a common theme when you talk about 3D printing. Why?

It’s much more than the speed of printing. It’s an innovative way to manufacture. With the HP 3D technology, it’s much faster than any competing 3D printer enabling high volume production rather than just prototyping.   

The machine can continuously print and cool 24-hours a day. This allows us to plan production times more accurately and predictably. We also have the ability to add to an existing printing job on the fly. In a traditional manufacturing environment, achieving the same results are both expensive and difficult to accomplish.

Using the HP Smart Stream technology, we can fully monitor the printer from our desktop computers and keep track of the build status, monitor materials and get real-time alerts. The system is highly sophisticated and includes 3D model error detection and correction. By monitoring the printing and detecting problems early, we can increase productivity and reduce errors.

What are some common misconceptions about printing 3D custom orthotics?

  1. The completed custom orthotic is totally 3D printed. We 3D print the shell of the device and rearfoot posting. The top cover, padding and accommodations are added after the shell is printed.
  2. When the device is printed, it’s ready for a top cover. The orthotics are removed from the powder chamber much like an archeological dig. Any unused powder is recycled and reused. We then bead blast the orthotics to remove any residual powder.  
  3. When the printing stops, the items are ready to be removed. After printing stops, there is a cooling period of several hours. This is required to prevent warping of the orthotic.

For over a decade, SOLO has invested it’s research and development efforts into understanding how 3D printing works and how it can benefit our customers. Today, we put our expertise and experience to work for both you and your customer. Try SOLO Premier 3D today. 




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