Foot health is important, I should know as I’m the daughter of a podiatrist. I remember getting my first pair of orthotics for my basketball shoes in high school. They were over $300, took weeks to receive, and were extremely uncomfortable when I finally got them to use during practice. Basically, I ended up throwing them and my money in the trash.
A new company, SOLS, is attempting to revolutionize how orthopedic soles are created by utilizing 3D scan technology to customize and print their product. Very interesting in theory, but I wonder what manufacturing technique they’re actually using and if their processes really live up to the hype. But irregardless, it’s encouraging that there is an on-going conversation around how digital manufacturing change consumer health on a broad schedule.
SOLS Systems co-founder and CEO Kegan Schouwenburg formerly worked at Shapeaways + has $6.4M of venture backing, so she definitely has the foundation for success.
Screenshots from SOLS website
Quote from Forbes Article:
“How did you stumble on orthotics as a killer application for digital manufacturing?
I was working at Shapeways [Editor’s Note: Shapeways is the world’s largest 3-D printing marketplace and my firm Lux Capital is an equity investor) and I was basically seeing all these designs come through and I was amazed at the variety of things that people were designing. There are certain products where customization adds value, particularly products that fit the body. There are so many amazing applications and technologies out there that just don’t work yet: I see them all the time. 3-D printing a scoliosis brace is amazing, but it’s not yet cost-effective. I think it’s great that people are innovating in the sector, but I wanted to create a business that works right now with other technology so we can use that to push it forward. I think that change will come. I looked at all of these products, racked my brain and thought, “What product embodies all of these?”
Everybody has to eat, everybody wears shoes, everybody wants to be more comfortable and we can empower people. We can enable people to walk outside and feel incredible about themselves, as we customize not the outside, but the inside of their shoes.
Before you founded SOLS, what did the orthotics landscape look like?
On the medical side, the industry is stagnant, old and forgotten. There are no regulations on how we do things or standardization in the product’s category. It’s very much region dependent, lab dependent, and doctor dependent. What happens is you have all those aspects of dependencies and then you end up with people like my dad who will sit down at the dinner table and say, “These are my orthotics from 20 years ago and to this day no one has been able to make me a pair of orthotics like this.” This is shocking but true. We hear stories like this every day. Medical orthotics are mostly sold through podiatrists, orthotists, physical therapists and personal trainers; all of these sort of dabble in the categories, but podiatrists have a lock down.
Where do you see SOLS in the future?
Obviously I want to have very strong footing in the medical and the consumer sector. We want to do insoles, orthotics, and eventually we want to do shoes and modular shoe concepts. I think there are some really, really cool opportunities as we start to integrate other manufacturing processes. I see SOLS as being wildly different from person to person. Right now, if you and I get a pair of SOLS they’re going to be different, but visually speaking they won’t look so different. In reality, they should be wildly different. We should be considering everything including shoe type, what sport you play, age, foot pad deterioration and integrating all of that into our algorithm to make a product that truly is customized.
Beyond SOLS, obviously this is our first product, but we want to continue to push our technology to other spaces so that eventually that scoliosis brace makes sense along with 3-D printed casts, shin guards, helmets, bicycle seats and more. We see ourselves as supporting customization for the human body to be better versions of ourselves, to empower ourselves, to feel better, more healthy and more beautiful. I think the opportunity in front of us is gigantic.”