Orthotics manufacturer Sols is putting comfort in the palm of one’s hand with a mobile app that helps produce custom 3D-printed insoles.
The New York-based company started in July 2013, and last November, it launched its app with a network of 500 medical professionals. Now the firm is set to debut a companion direct-to-consumer program this fall.
The company’s digital platform creates a custom insole designed to support and properly align the foot. Within the app is photogrammetry, a process whereby consumers take six photos of their feet, which helps the application generate a detailed virtual model.
The insole — fabricated from NASA-grade nylon — is then 3D-printed at Sols’ facility in Austin, Texas, and finished at the company’s New York headquarters, where it gets a topcoat of leather, neoprene or wool, per the customer’s specifications. Layers of foam can also be added for enhanced cushioning.
The entire process takes only six to eight business days, according to the company, and once an individual is scanned, additional insoles can be made for a range of footwear, from athletic to dress shoes.
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Sols founder and CEO Kegan Schouwenburg, a 29-year-old industrial designer, was attracted to 3D printing as a means of making better goods easily accessible to consumers. After coming up with an initial design concept, she tapped the expertise of a medical advisory board of six podiatrists. Today, the company’s staff of 60 includes five biomechanical engineers.
Since founding Sols two years ago, Schouwenburg has raised roughly $20 million in capital. The most recent investment came in February from Carmelo Anthony and Stuart Goldfarb’s joint fund, which contributed $11 million.
Although Schouwenburg declined to reveal how many insoles have been sold so far, she estimated that the company has experienced 20 percent month-over-month growth due to increased awareness.
“The orthotics industry as a whole [is not viewed] as cool or sexy,” said Schouwenburg. “[The products] are not grabbing [consumers]. Our aim is to change that perception.”
Consumers were introduced to the app this spring at a Sols pop-up store in New York. “We used the shop as an opportunity to test the [consumer] waters and as a learning experience to collect data,” said marketing associate Spencer Wayne, noting that a team was there to scan consumers’ feet.
While many of the visitors were walk-ins, some had learned about the brand through word-of-mouth and social media partnerships.
Doctors, on the other hand, have been solicited by the company’s in-house sales team, which makes sales calls at physicians’ offices.
Schouwenburg expects consumer sales to account for the lion’s share of the business. Basic orthotics retail for $125, with more technical medical-grade versions selling for $300 to $500.
Although Sols is early to the game with 3D technology, it faces plenty of competition in the insole business. “Dr. Scholl’s is the one we hear people talking about,” said Schouwenburg. However, she believes her brand’s ability to offer true customization will be an important advantage. “We’re creating a 3D model of your foot and an insole to match your weight and shoe,” noted Schouwenburg. “Every aspect is dynamically engineered.”
Sols is already contemplating new products. According to Schouwenburg, some footwear brands have expressed interest in offering Sols’ orthotics in their shoes to give customers a one-of-kind fit.