8sole Makes US Debut
By Janice T. Radak
“We created an orthotics toolbox for doctors,” said Pavel Repisky, a partner at 8sole, the newest 3D player in the US orthotics market. On the touchscreen monitor in front of him is the page the company believes sets them apart from other 3D providers: Called the “configurator,” this page provides clinicians with 11 areas of modification for each orthosis—11 for the right foot and 11 for the left foot.
“These are all tools the doctor can use to customize the orthotic for the patient right in front of him,” he said, pointing to the page. “It creates a patient education opportunity,” he added, “where the doctor can explain to the patient what he’s doing to each orthotic to make it fit the unique aspects of each foot.” Repisky then dragged the various toolbars left and right to display how the system allows the clinician to modify each orthosis separately in relation to the scan of the patient’s feet.
Although the plastic shell is custom 3D-printed, the finishing layer is designed and cut per the configurator instructions, then applied by hand. When soft pads are part of the configuration, Repisky explained, the exact positioning is outlined in the 3D-printed shell to guide the hand application. “This system puts the doctor in charge of the entire process,” he said, noting that, after the orthosis is designed and the clinician hits “Send,” the product is delivered 2 weeks later.
8sole might be new to the US market, but it is not new to orthotics. 8sole is a brand from Invent Medical, a firm that has been making orthoses for more than 25 years in Europe, and that database of clinician-driven orthosis design informs the artificial intelligence behind the company’s algorithms. Furthermore, 8sole brings nearly a decade of experience with 3D-printing technology, having used it since 2010. 8sole partners with HP for its 3D printing needs.
“We keep data on every pair of orthotics we print,” said Repisky. “We know if the temperature on the outside edge of the machine was only 140 degrees and not 170 degrees as it should be for proper processing, then there could be problems.” He likened the data capture to an automobile’s vehicle identification number, which allows automakers to know where and when each part of a vehicle is manufactured, so that if there are problems, they know which cars need to be recalled.
“If we find out there was a problem with a certain pair of orthotics—say, they are cracking,” Repisky explained, “then we check the data, find out what the conditions were and see which other orthotics in that batch might be affected. If we find others, then we send a note to the doctor explaining the issue and provide a new pair of orthotics at no charge.”
Regulations coming online in the next 2 years will require this kind of tracking of manufacturing data for companies that want to become an authorized supplier for the US Veterans Administration, a key market segment for orthoses, to be sure. 8sole’s near-decade of experience with this kind of data-capture and data-mining capabilities should serve it well as this new form of manufacturing disrupts a decades-old industry.