Zoles company manufactures custom 3D printed insoles drastically reducing costs and shrinking lead times

Zoles manufactures customized insoles around Europe using BCN3D printers, speeding up all the process and being able to save up to 80% of the total production costs with each pair. Based in Denmark, Zoles gives to their users an experience of increased comfort and performance when walking and running. The focus resides on producing customized footwear and shoe insoles. Thanks to 3D printing they are now able to fulfill all their clients requirements.

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How the idea started

During the last few years, the footwear and orthotics market has been growing until reaching some impressive numbers. Nowadays, they are being produced 23.5 billion pairs of shoes per year, and the foot orthotics industry is expected to reach a value of 3.5 billion dollars in 2020. An important volume of this footwear market is managed via online shopping and it is still growing 15% per year. From all this online shopping, some studies estimate that 20% of these shoes are returned to manufacturers due to unfit. That is why Zoles focused on producing customized insoles and shoes. The main challenge comes when talking about the production because customization can’t be done on mass production machinery. Besides, it would be too expensive to create individual molds for each pair of shoes and insoles.

The advantage of 3D printing for customization

In order to solve this challenge, Zoles created 3D models of the customized insoles with their own foot analysis and insole design software. Then, using 3D printing was a natural next step to turn into physical models the created designs.

In June 2017, Zoles launched a 3D technology platform that enabled them to make customized insoles and shoes for their clinic customers in Denmark. After a great success, Zoles launched an online platform in August 2018 to let everybody order customized shoes and insoles. The user can take some pictures of his own feet and the software itself calculates how the shoe or insole should be to fit well.

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Zoles studied the printer market to look for the best ones to print flexible filament, and they found BCN3D printers the ideal printers to achieve their goal. Thanks to Bondtech extruders and e3D hotends, Zoles considered the BCN3D Sigma and BCN3D Sigmax as the perfect printers to fit their needs. In addition, they took advantage of the possibility to print in Mirror/Duplication mode, which was used to print a pair of insoles in half of the time as with traditional 3D printers.  

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Zoles has now more than 250 users and the 3D printers will also give them the opportunity to provide local manufacturing with their shoe manufacturer partners in Europe.

They can today 3D print customized insoles of high quality, at a price that can compete with standard insoles. The insoles are made from the flexible material TPU with its high elastic characteristics and ability to bounce back and forth into the shape. Zoles customized insoles cost less than 50% of a pair of orthopedic insoles. It is a great example of a 3D printing application, in which are produced low-volume series of a product.

The main advantage comes when buying online. It can be done in 5 minutes, anywhere and totally customized. Taking 5 pictures and evaluating the user’s feet and problems data, Zoles is able to adapt all the insoles to the user. Check it out at their website zoles.eu

Competitive prices using 3D printers

Because of the low-volume customized production, 3D printing is the best solution in terms of costs and adaptability. In addition, timing is crucial and Zoles can ensure that the insoles will get to the user in less than a week. When using an external supplier it takes more time and the cost per part is higher. The core 3D print production cost less than 20% of the cost of producing a traditionally custom-made insole. Then, it has to be taken into account the preparation cost of making the 3D model, which is much lower than the time to prepare a traditional custom-made insole. Finally, the custom-made insoles are sold at a price of 65€ which is approx 50%-80% lower than what it is paid for traditionally custom-made insoles, so they can compete with standard insole brands.

Additive manufacturing helps isolate cells from one of the most aggressive breast cancers

Scientists from the University of Girona have successfully isolated breast cancer stem cells using additive manufacturing. This investigation has been considered a very important milestone in the research of triple negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive cancers with a high relapse rate. Using the 3D printer BCN3D Sigma, the research team has been able to manufacture three-dimensional scaffolds that recreate those structures found in the tissues and fibers of the body. These 3D scaffolds are able to separate the stem cells, responsible for causing relapses, in order to study them later for the purpose of devising pharmaceuticals capable of eliminating them without affecting other cells and avoiding the occurrence of relapses in patients.

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A research team from the University of Girona has managed to isolate stem cells from one of the most aggressive breast cancers through an additive manufacturing system. The goal of isolating these cells is to facilitate the investigation to the laboratory and find a drug that exclusively attacks these cells and that does not damage healthy parts of the body, therefore preventing patients from suffering a relapse.

Dr. Teresa Puig, one of the researchers directing the project, explained that these tumor cells still remain in the body after treatment via chemotherapy or radiotherapy and that they are responsible for the reappearance of the disease. According to Puig, the cancer being researched is the triple negative subtype, which occurs in young women and leads to relapses within three or four years in 20 or 30 percent of patients.

“A tumor is made up of many types of cells, and these are the cells we have in low proportions. Therefore, it is complicated to locate these cells within the tumor. This new system is cleaner, allowing us to work more directly with these types of cells later,” says Teresa Puig, director of the Oncology Unit of the Group for the Investigation of New Therapeutic Targets.

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To accommodate an optimal three-dimensional cell culture, the main aim was to develop a scaffold architecture which affords a high breast cancer cell proliferation rate. For this purpose, several values of the selected parameters (layer height, infill density, infill pattern, infill direction, and flow) were tested on the slicing software BCN3D Cura to find the optimal ones and 3D printed using the BCN3D Sigma. Using the Taguchi experimental design method, twenty-seven scaffold configurations were manufactured and then analyzed. To perform the characterization and cell proliferation assays, at least ten copies of each configuration were printed. The objective of the study has been to see which geometric form was most effective in separating the stem cells, the cells responsible for leading to the relapses.

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Microscopic characterization of PLA scaffold configurations. Top side was visualized under an optical microscope and images were used to calculate pore area and filament diameter.

“This structure is a mesh that, on the basis of a series of parameters such as porosities, spaces, and the distance between one element and another, is ultimately able to allow cells to stick to the matrix or not, to grow, and to be able to ‘enrich themselves’, as our colleagues say,” explains Joaquim de Ciurana, director of the Research Group on the Engineering of Products, Processes, and Production.

Prior to this investigation, these cell cultures were produced two-dimensionally, which did not allow the cells to be effectively separated, and therefore, specific pharmaceuticals could not be produced to attack these cells.

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Optical microscope images of cells attached to different scaffolds configurations. White arrows indicate cells adhered to PLA filament.

Now, after isolating the stem cells of this sub-type of breast cancer, the researchers will be able to study them in greater depth to find the bio-indicators responsible for the tumors and will be able to attack them using pharmaceuticals. “We still do not know how to treat them, but we have found a way to isolate them,” says Teresa Puig. This biomedical engineering project created using 3D printing, known as ‘ONCOen3D’, has also allowed reducing the costs of the traditional methodology of analysis, and therefore to increase the experiments carried out with cancer cells.

The results of the study have been published in the scientific journals ‘International Journal of Molecular Sciences’ and ‘Polymers’, and have been presented at international congresses. The research has been funded in part with money from La Marató de TV3. In this document, a detailed report on the investigation can be found.

Source: Article posted on the International Journal of Molecular Sciences by Emma Polonio-Alcalá, Marc Rabionet, Antonio J. Guerra, Marc Yeste, Joaquim Ciurana and Teresa Puig. “Screening of Additive Manufactured Scaffolds Designs for Triple Negative Breast Cancer 3D Cell Culture and Stem-Like Expansion”.

Realistic Mockup of a Housing Estate

Realistic Mockup of a Housing Estate

120 x 150 cm in size, amazing detail, made cheaper and faster than traditional methods.

Challenge

Creating a good architectural mock-up is no mean feat because it requires perfect reproduction of details, fine aesthetics and high quality of craftsmanship. The end result must impress potential investors and developers. The challenge was to create a highly detailed, large-scale architectural model of a modern housing estate in 3D printing technology.

Solution

Get Models Now decided to use a ZMorph multitool 3D printer to print all of the infrastructures of the mockup, and use traditional mockup making methods and materials only for finishing. The buildings were divided into segments and put together after printing. The area around the residential buildings was fenced and covered with green grass, on which a playground was placed. The remaining space was developed with trees, shrubs, parking spaces and lamps. Additionally, the mock-up has realistically made lighting inside and outside the buildings.

Result

The end result is a 120 x 150 cm realistic mockup of a housing estate made with the utmost accuracy and attention to detail, and of course a ZMorph multitool 3D printer. Creating an architectural mockup in 3D printing technology has nothing but superlatives – it’s much cheaper, faster and more accurate than traditional methods. Designing and 3D printing is an excellent tool for modern architects.

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Fully Functional Drone

Fully Functional Drone

Made by the worlds most versatile and practical 3D printer

Challenge

3D printers gained the attention of a broader audience in the second decade of the XXI century with a few open source project which offered affordable additive manufacturing machines, simultaneously sparking a market for future 3D printer manufacturers. Since that time 3D printers evolved, even surpassing the function of 3D printing. Nowadays, thanks to multitool 3D printers like the ZMorph VX, users can create complex, multi-material projects, including a PCB board. With this use case, we’d like to show you how advanced are multitool 3D printers today. The project you’re about to see wouldn’t be possible with a typical single-purpose 3D printer.

Solution

In order to make a fully custom drone we used all of ZMorph VX fabrication methods. 3D printing with ABS was used for the electronics casing, propeller guards, and landing gear. From a 3D printing toolhead we switched to Laser PRO toolhead to etch a PCB design on a PCB copper laminate plate. Next, a CNC PRO toolhead was used to cut the frame from lightweight and sturdy Dibond composite, and also to cut out the form of the PCB from the previously etched copper laminate. Then we took some standard electronics to make the drone “alive”, like sensors, main processor, battery, radio control remote. Finally, we made final post processing touches by painting some elements of the drone.

Result

We combined all three ZMorph fabrication methods: 3D printing, CNC, and laser. We used some ABS filament, Dibond, PCB laminates and some electronics, all worth around $100. This multitool 3D printer allowed us to make an awesome looking and functional drone within a desktop workspace. The same process can be used for making prototypes, showcase models and even low-volume production – proportional to the amount of owned 3D printers. A drone is only an example because the range of ZMorph’s possibilities is really vast – for more check out our catalog at zmorph3d.com/catalog. 3D printers came a long way!

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Custom Resin Jewelry from 3D Printed Molds

Custom Resin Jewelry from 3D Printed Molds

Fully controlled process, lower production cost, amazing effects.

Challenge

Resin casting is a well known method for making jewelry. This method incorporates pouring resin into a mold in the desired shape of the jewelry piece. The most crucial part of the process is the mold itself – the visual effect depends on how precise the mold is, and the cost viability of the process depends mainly on the cost of a custom made mold. Designer Paula Szarejko was able to optimize both above factors thanks to a ZMorph VX.

Solution

The first part of the process was designing the parts for 3D printing: jewelry shapes and mold box. The 3D printed shape was used as an imprint to mark the geometry of the jewelry in silicon rubber, resulting in a mold negative. The mold negative created that way was then put into the 3D printed mold box, ready to be used for casting. For casting material, Paula chose translucent epoxy resin mixed with stone and sand particles as well as different dyes to create a one-of-a-kind visual effect. As the last step, Paula 3D printed some neat jewelry cases with her branding.

Result

Using a ZMorph VX Paula was able to create custom jewelry molds in a fully controlled process, and what’s also important, at low cost. Additionally, 3D printing opened her the way for experimenting with jewelry shapes and allowed for faster iterating. In result, Paula was able to create an entire line of jewelry, reuse the same molds for low-volume production, and multiply the molds when needed.

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