SMART Insole 3D Printed Footwear

Case Study

//SMART Insole 3D Printed Footwear
SMART Insole 3D Printed Footwear2018-12-07T15:49:51+00:00

SMART Insole designed by Gait & Motion Analysis Lab at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University

Dr. Roy Cheung, Associate Professor in the Gait & Motion Analysis Lab, is the inventor of the 3D printed SMART insole.  Roy himself is a jogger and wanted to learn about his own running stance but the expensive market price of a smart insole drove him to initiate this project.

Fully printed insole with circuit enclosed.
Dr Roy Cheung

“There are also smart insoles in the market with numerous built-in pressure sensors. But they cost over HK$10,000 (£982) a pair. Worse still, they don’t last very long. For long-distance runners who run for at least 15 km a week, those smart insoles only last for one year at most,”

Dr Roy T. H. Cheung, Associate Professor

Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The Gait & Motion Analysis Lab – Introduction

The Gait & Motion Analysis Lab is based in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Research in the Gait & Motion Analysis Lab focuses on running mechanics, performance, rehabilitation, and injury prevention. It aspires to understand the interplay between the brain, neurophysical regulatory systems, and human movements during walking and running.

Challenge

If the smart insoles were created using a traditional manufacturing process, the complete smart insoles with pressure sensors would have cost an upwards 100 thousand HK dollars and would only be durable for one year. Both traditional insole customization and smart insole creation are a complicated process. Generally, insole customization manufacturing requires:

  • Impression moulding from foam, silicon or plaster
  • Thermoforming insole material in foot impression
  • Correcting the insole and finishing.

The smart insole production additionally requires insole manufacturing and circuit integration setup. The challenge is, without moulding for a large batch order, the small batch producing or prototyping can only rely on hand making which will result in a very inaccurate layout.

Insole printing exposed circuit slot on Raise3D N2
Partially printed insole with circuit mounted inside.

Solution

By applying 3D printing, Roy eliminated most processes involved in the creation of the insole. The Raise3D N2 is able to directly build a final production model with customized insole geometry and will automatically leave the space and slot exposed for circuit setup.  After installation, the printer will completely enclose the electronics by printing the consecutive layers over them. Labour cost, facility and equipment cost, and lead time are shortened by this automation. Most importantly, Raise3D printer allows Roy to combine insole customization and circuit setup together in one print run. As a result, the price of the insole is reduced to 500 HK dollars from 100,000 HK dollars. Lead time is reduced from 2 weeks to less than 5 days. The equipment list is reduced to a computer, scanner, and printer instead of foam pads and thermoforming machine and grinding machine.

Process

The smart insole consists of electronic sensors and a thermoplastic insole structure. The production process has three main phases including :

  1. Foot Scanning
  2. Insole Modeling & Sensor Layout / Design
  3. Printing / Electronics Enclosure

Roy begins by scanning a model of the foot which will be used for modelling the insole.

Using the visualized scan data in the modelling software, he can easily locate the correct position on the insole by aligning insole shape with the model of the feet. Roy’s design places two pressure sensors at the position of heel and second metatarsal. Bluetooth modules are also installed in the arch area.

By using a visual model and 3D printing, Roy can maximize the protection of enclosed electronics by designing an appropriate space layout and controlling the hardness of the insole with filament selection and infill rate. All components will be enclosed between layers of the filament.

Cost and Time Saved using 3D Printing

Traditionally 3D Printing Percentage Saved
Time 2 Weeks 5 Days 64.29%
Cost 100,000 HK Dollars
(£9,823)
500 HK Dollars
(£49)
99.5%

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