It’s the new business startup that’s got everyone talking. In less than 2 years, SOLS has raised a whopping $20 million from investors, and their products are available in 300 cities in three different countries. If you haven’t heard about them – you will soon. Their USP? Custom insoles that their customers can wear in their shoes. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, these insoles are created using the latest 3D printers, and are used by 350 chiropractors and podiatrists who scan the feet of their patients to choose the right fit. It’s the latest example of how fashion and technology have combined, and provides us with a glimpse of how people will order their clothes in the future.
What’s this startup all about?
SOLS – who are based in New York – offers insoles at a significantly cheaper price than podiatrists. According to Forbes, a typical custom insole could cost as much as $700. SOLS are selling them for $125. Recognizing a gap in the market, the startup route images that are sent to their NYC headquarters to a 3D printing facility in Texas. And that’s where the magic happens – these images are transformed into physical insoles, which are ready to be shipped across the country.
Purchasing habits and the healthcare industry
But what does SOLS tell us about purchasing habits in the future? The ability to customize your own clothes and shoes will most definitely become more popular, but it’s the technology that is used to personalize the products that’s the real innovation. Consumers will soon be able to create their own designs using a smartphone or laptop – in a similar way to how the chiropractors scan the feet of their patients when ordering these insoles.
The healthcare industry has been using 3D technologies and platforms for a number of years now to print a wide range of equipment. From tracheal splints to casts to prosthetic, and everything in-between, new technologies have made it easier to produce these items quickly and effectively. SOLS insoles are beneficial when it comes to reducing foot pain and helping to improve posture, but it’s the way they are created that’s really smart. Users can scan their feet with an app on their phone which will then send the image to the company’s database. This reduces the time it usually takes to produce the insole, and once all checks are carried out, the images are converted into 3D models. Users can even choose the color that they want their insoles to be printed in – giving them full control over the production process.
During the manufacturing process, the insoles are dyed to match the user’s choice of color and then coated in a special anti-microbial layer that can help to eliminate nasty foot odors. They return up to 75 per cent of the energy used when a user takes a footstep, and the insoles can support the weight of the users and improve alignment.
The future of this technology
So, who does this revolutionary new technology appeal to? Consumers? The healthcare industry? Both? Well, SOLS have big plans for the development of their business, including new features that will allow users to visualize their final product in real-time, and view any changes that will have any effect on their gait and alignment.
SOLS has a small team of people working for them, and are heavily reliant on the technology that makes what they do possible. But one thing’s for certain – the company has identified a gap in the market and introduced an innovative product that will save consumers a lot of money and hassle.
3D printing and the future
There have been a number of entrepreneurial startups and business launches in recent years in the 3D printing industry – a technology which has exploded recently. The effect that 3D printing could have on business is definitely interesting, with some experts stating that it could transform the way many companies operate in the next few years.
Just like SOLS, 3D printing allows goods and services to become more customized, and because altering a model doesn’t require any re-tooling, consumers have more choice and flexibility when it comes to choosing what they like – and what they don’t – from a product. As 3D printing becomes more prevalent, expect brands to become more open in allowing their customers to make their own changes, personalize their products, and choose their own visuals.