It is easy to see why HP wants to help guide your steps. The U.S. Athletic Footwear Industry Sales Grew 2 Percent to $19.6 Billion in 2017, NPD Group Reports. Add to that the North American foot orthotic insoles market is expected to grow to more than $1.7 billion by 2022, according to Statista. With a new 3D tech platform called FitStation, HP Inc. intends to get a big slice of these multi-billion dollar markets.
FitStation is a platform combining 3D foot scanning with gait analysis to create custom 3D printed orthotic insoles. The 3D printing is done on another relatively new HP technology; the HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printing system (launched in late 2014).
I received a demonstration of the FitStation technology at the RAPID 3D Printing trade show in 2016 and it is impressive. Since then, HP and the platform have been on a growth spurt in orthotics and in custom running shoes.
The technology looks like a small treadmill but instead of a moving rubber mat, you step onto a glass plate similar to a copy machine with short walls (filled with other sensors) to measure your gait and step. In my demo there also was a pressure sensitive mat that you also walked on that measured various pressure points based on how your foot sunk into the mat allowing a very precise 3D model of your foot. The specifications I pulled from their website state: “Gait pattern capture. FDA-approved with 8,192 sensors capturing 500 data points per second.” I don’t know that I have seen a more sensor-packed piece of equipment.
A range of companies are using the FitStation as well as the HP MJF printer:
In late 2018, HP Inc. announced a strategic alliance with Go 4-D, a 3D printed medical orthotics industry visionary, to modernize the process used to create custom orthotics.
As part of the alliance, Go 4-D will distribute FitStation powered by HP throughout the North American medical market. HP’s FitStation platform combines 3D foot scanning with dynamic gait analysis to enable both orthotic recommendations and 3D printed custom orthotics, prescribed from each person’s unique biomechanics. This will enable Go 4-D to manufacture comfortable, precise, and cost-effective custom orthotics using cutting-edge HP Jet Fusion 3D printing systems.
Brooks Running Company started working with HP in 2017 as one of the first to create custom running shoes and they use FitStation for the insole and to determine other features of their shoes. In May 2018, they announced the Brooks Genesys—the company’s first personalized running shoe— would be available for runners in the U.S. in early 2019.
HP also has a partnership with Superfeet using the HP Jet Fusion printer to create their custom $150 insoles. The small Washington State-based company is growing fast with its energetic and fun branding as well as fast production methods.
In fact, Superfeet created its own manufacturing plant, Flowbuilt, to keep on top of custom insole and custom shoe market opportunities. Right now, the FitStation setup—which is in 26 running stores across the country—can use that rendering to recommend existing shoes for you, as well as 3D-print custom $150 Superfeet insoles. In the future, once you’ve had your feet scanned, you’ll be able to load your data into the program and get your own version of the Brooks Genesys. FitStation takes your foot shape, gait, and stance into account to shape the insole and determine the midsole’s stiffness.
In the effort to better mold and form a shoe or an orthotic to your foot, HP is seeking to improve your everyday walking experience and your performance running goals. For those who have long wanted either less pain from their feet or a greater ability to run faster and more efficiently, HP is here to help.
UPDATE: In Shanghai, China, last week, SIGG Outdoors (“SIGG”) formally announced a partnership with HP. Based on the FitStation platform, the two companies will jointly research and develop the most personalized and technologically advanced professional digital and dynamically-customized running shoes worldwide. According to the plan, SIGG, the exclusive partner of HP FitStation in China, will debut this innovative product at the ISPO, which will be held in China in January 2019, and roll out the product to Chinese consumers in March 2019.