Big Step for Orthotics - Y Magazine
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BYU Today

Big Step for Orthotics

A student invention uses digital imaging and a pin mold to create custom insoles in half an hour.

A student invention uses digital imaging and a pin mold to create custom insoles in half an hour.

Getting custom orthotic insoles can be a pain in the foot. A new pair can take weeks to make and require multiple visits to a doctor’s office.

All that may soon change, however, thanks to a group of BYU engineering students: new technology they created kicks out insoles in just 30 minutes.

The Sole Orthotics Solutions and F3 Orthotics student teams created the portable Variform3D workstation as part of the College of Engineering and Technology’s Capstone program. Sponsored by Utah entrepreneur Brent Johnson, the students spent up to 25 hours a week for two years building the workstation, which “closes the gap between the doctor and Dr. Scholl’s,” according to Johnson.

The traditional insole-making process requires a doctor to send plaster casts or digital images to an orthotics lab, resulting in tedious waits. In the Variform3D process, a workstation operator scans each foot to create a 3-D digital model that’s sent to an adjustable pin mold. Once the pins adjust to the foot’s shape, a piece of heated plastic is attached to the mold and, in the time it takes to thumb through a magazine, the new insoles are ready to pound the pavement.

“These students did a phenomenal job,” says Johnson. “This project has the potential to change the orthotics industry.”

The Capstone program helps engineering students transition from college to the career field by giving them industry experience. “Because of this project,” says Caleb J. Waugh (’08), “I’m more confident that I’ll be able to go out in the industry and succeed.”

With prototypes already being tested at the Foot Solutions store in Las Vegas this summer, the Variform3D workstation is poised to save time and doctor’s visits for custom-insole users—news that should bring relief to more than a few soles.

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