How 3D-Printed ME3D Personalized Insoles are Made

Posted in: Technology
Stack of ME3D insoles with names showing

Superfeet ME3D personalized insoles provide unique benefits tailor-made (literally!) to your feet. Thanks to state-of-the-art comprehensive assessment tools in hundreds of running and sporting goods stores, your biometric data can be analyzed and used to craft premium insoles perfectly attuned to not just the shape of your feet but the way your feet move as well.

These incredible data insights set ME3D personalized insoles apart from most custom insoles made from foam or plaster molds. But the biometric data that goes into each pair of ME3Ds is only half the story.

The meticulous 3D-printing and hand-assembly process is equaly cutting-edge and fascinating. Let’s take a look at how premium ME3D personalized insoles are made to order.

Are ME3D personalized insoles really all individually 3D-printed?

In short, yes. The data from your in-store scans is translated into the cap of the insole, which forms the support structure around the heel and under the arch. Your 3D foot scan provides measurements like foot size and arch height while the pressure plate records where each foot experiences the most and least amounts of pressure through the entire gait cycle—from the moment your heel hits the ground to the second your toes lift off.

The way each area of the foot experiences pressure effects five independent support zones built into the ME3D cap that can be individually tuned to be flexible, firm, or somewhere in between. The timing and distribution of forces during each step determine the angle (ranging from -30° to 30°) of directional flex lines seen on the bottom of the cap. These flex lines help guide your foot during the gait cycle.

But enough about the data, let’s get into the printing. Superfeet uses multiple industrial 3D printers at our production facility in Washington state to print the personalized cap for each individual ME3D insole. They always come in pairs, but the right and left insole caps from the same order can differ slightly in flex lines and support zones because right and left feet belonging to the same person can be slightly different sizes or have subtly different movement patterns.

The 3D printers, each about the size of a small car, use a polyamide powder mixed with fluid detailing and fusing agents to build the caps one fraction-of-a-millimeter layer at a time. The printers can build 140 caps in each batch. The curves of the caps, standing on their side edge instead of flat, can be seen forming slowly yet meticulously over 12 to 16 hours.

Once the batch is done, like a giant ink cartridge getting taken out of a normal office printer, the filing-cabinet-sized build unit is wheeled from the 3D printer to a processing station. The excess polyamide powder is vacuumed away revealing the ME3D caps. The powder is recycled and combined with new powder for another build.

How does a 3D-printed cap get turned into a finished insole?

Once the caps have been cleaned, they are ready to be glued to high quality energizing foam to form the perfect cushioned yet supportive insole. Because each cap is unique, they are checked and organized by hand to make sure the correct left and right pairs go together. You can customize your ME3Ds with your name on the back of each insole, so it’s important insoles with the same name stay together!

Each personalized insole cap is glued by hand to the premium foam layer and vacuum-formed together for a lasting seal. The caps are then double checked to make sure they are the correct pair and placed into the corresponding box—which also has your name on it.

The ME3D production process combines the precision of the latest 3D-printing technology with the quality assurance that comes with assembling products by hand. Our facility in Washington state turns raw powder and foam pieces into premium products that help people move through the world and enjoy life on their feet.

Learn more about the two styles of ME3D personalized insoles and be sure to watch the video of the entire production process above.

March 7, 2023