3D printing has made its mark in areas such as aerospace, with the creation of rocket components, igniters, and more. This progressive technology is allowing innovative automotive parts to be made for companies like Ford, BMW, and even Rolls Royce.
But we also spend a lot of time, it would seem, discussing what 3D printing can do for feet! From running shoes to high heels, designers and manufacturers have embraced the ability to prototype and manufacture futuristic products—and orthotic insoles have been a popular item also. Because they can be time consuming to order, as well as expensive, 3D printing is an attractive option for manufacturing such items. Not only can they be made quickly, but usually at a fraction of the price when compared to conventional insoles.
Now, Delhi-headquartered Shapecrunch is 3D printing custom insoles for individuals suffering from issues that are all-too-common such as problems stemming from diabetes, flat feet, and plantar fasciitis. The company was founded in 2015 by Nitin Gandhi, Jatin Sharma, Arunan Arivalagan, and Jiten Saini, inspired by the challenges Gandhi was having finding custom insoles for flat feet.
“I went to the doctor and he told me to get a pair of custom orthotics. Then I went to a shop to get those made and was surprised to see the manual process. All the machines were imported and the orthotics that I finally got had to be replaced because they were uncomfortable. Then again I had to go there,” Gandhi recalls.
On speaking with Gandhi’s doctor and doing their research, the group discovered that conventional equipment for creating such devices is considered to be very expensive, and only a few other companies or medical professionals were offering the service. With Gandhi and Sharma already experienced in 3D printing (and they are all engineers in varying fields), a light bulb went off.
“Since were already working in 3D printing, we thought how if we 3D print the insoles and see if it’s comfortable. It actually worked,” Gandhi says.
The Shapecrunch system is streamlined and completely digitized, requiring the doctor to scan the patient’s foot and enter the data. The software transfers the data into a 3D model which can then be 3D printed and shipped to the patient. Users without serious foot problems (and required medical care) can even scan their own feet and complete the process on their own.
“Our algorithm captures more than 1,000 points from feet and converts them into a 3D model,” Gandhi reveals.
Currently, the Shapecrunch team works with the following medical professionals in providing them with the scanning technology:
For a company who just put their product on the market last year, response has obviously been very positive with 1,200 patients using their services so far. Twenty percent have ordered a second pair of orthotics already too!
“The insoles are really comfortable. I use them in my running shoes and hiking shoes. They provide cushioning to my feet, which has reduced the pain and problems of swollen feet,” says Madhu Bhardwaj, a happy Shapecrunch customer.
The team trains doctors in how to use the Shapecrunch product, and then they are able to set up their own labs for less than $200.
“Shapecrunch allows us to provide full customization and helps us solve problems, which can’t be solved with traditional methods,” said Dr. Abhishek Jain, Founder of Delhi Foot.
More than 30 clinics are using Shapecrunch now, and the team has filed three patents for their product.
“…the biggest challenge for us was gaining knowledge of the foot and developing the algorithm, for which we worked with multiple foot specialists,” said Gandhi. “We first did basic trials with AIIMS, working with the PMR department. Later, the project got funded to do a bigger study.
“Most existing competitors use expensive imported machines for foot impression and require many people to fabricate the insole manually. With computer vision and machine learning we have digitized the whole process, disrupting the whole space.”
Shapecrunch currently has 10 members on their team, and while they are based in India, they have received orders from patients in Europe and the US. The new company spent their first year and a half doing research with All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. They have also received a grant from BIRAC to continue doing clinical research with AIIMS. Along with that, the Shapecrunch team has also received an undisclosed amount of seed funding, with should offer a positive boost.
They hope to begin turning a profit this year, and plan to continue working on related products that will benefit runners as well as those suffering from complications due to diabetes.
Find out more about how the Shapecrunch system works here.
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