Customized Production with 3D Printing
Custom insole and sandal manufacturer, Wiivv, is redefining comfort and convenience in the footwear industry. Paired with their award-winning mobile app, consumers are able to create a digital copy of their foot and order completely customized footwear unique to them, delivered within 14 days. The part of the foot scan that is completely customizable is the arch support, which is 3D printed with GKN Additive (Forecast 3D). GKN Additive (Forecast 3D), a GKN Powder Metallurgy Company, are now brand partners alongside Wiivv creating a triple win partnership. This footwear company is taking a big step and trailblazing a new way to manufacture consumer products.
According to Wiivv’s biomechanists, 80% of people experience foot pain in their lives. Those who enjoy an active lifestyle can, oftentimes, feel limited by injury or repetitive stress to their feet. That’s where Wiivv insoles come in. This product is not to be confused with orthotic devices that are a medically prescribed solution to correct anatomical conditions. Wiivv Custom Insoles and Sandals are designed for comfort and support. “Our biomechanists are formally trained to understand foot anatomy and how it relates to podiatry,” said Brett Ritter, Wiivv President. “Combining their expertise with our scanning software, we are able to provide a custom solution to customers. Essentially, Wiivv is a technology built on science.”
Wiivv is a mobile-first company with apps available on any smartphone. Customers take photos of each foot to create a digital model that Wiivv’s software immediately assesses. From there, a typical footbed stock component is transformed with the addition of a 3D-printed custom arch and heel cradle. Every 3D printed shell is unique to each person AND foot. These hybrid custom insoles and sandals are designed to provide comfort and relief. “Our foot measurement and customer experience is unique and almost non-existent within the marketplace. We knew that partnering with a like-minded technology company would give us an advantage,” Ritter said, discussing how valuable the relationship with GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) has been to their product line.
Distributive manufacturing is a concept based on the decentralization of design, production and assembly. With the ability to connect with users across the globe and collect valuable scanning data, Wiivv needed to reevaluate traditional manufacturing methods. The cost to produce custom insoles was too high, which made it impossible to enter such a massive and competitive marketplace. “GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) is not just a supplier or service provider,” Ritter remarked. “They have proven to be an agile and willing partner that has eliminated several barriers to entry and positively impacted our business.” Since 2015, Wiivv has utilized the technical knowledge and 3D printing capacity at the GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) facility in Carlsbad, California.
“It’s a brilliant business model,” said Ken Burns, VP of Commercial at GKN Additive (Forecast 3D). “The beauty of additive manufacturing is the ability to print hundreds of unique parts overnight —and on a single printer.” GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) currently produces custom footwear shells for Wiivv with a Nylon PA 12 material that is exclusively available on HP Multi Jet Fusion printers. With the largest service fleet of HP MJF 3D printers in North America, F3D is uniquely positioned to assist other consumer product companies reach their distributive manufacturing goals. Instead of creating injection mold tools or outsourcing overseas, companies like Wiivv can produce on-demand, custom products.
The Wiivv value proposition was originally questioned by many when they said they could deliver custom insoles within 14 days to their customers via the use of mobile apps. Now, they’ve exceeded that expectation and are harnessing the value of additive manufacturing for the next generation of wearable consumer products.
The Future of Wearables
Wiivv’s business opportunity is to scale customization and make it accessible to the masses. Through the use of mobile technology and redefining manufacturability, Ritter and his team believe this is possible. “Learning how to integrate AM (3D printing) will improve the connection to consumers and offer a value proposition that is accessible and affordable,” Ritter said.
Custom 3D printing for consumer applications such as hearing aids, custom jewelry or dental applications are common within the industry, so it’s no surprise that the next generation of wearables will include some sort of additive manufacturing component. In Wiivv’s case, they were able to identify the most valuable component of the insole (arch) and combine it with footbed stock that is traditionally produced from injection molding.
This hybrid approach is a major game-changer for Wiivv and, according to Ritter, it helped them get to market faster. “Customers are driving the revolution of additive manufacturing. Customization is so important to them, not just for style but for functionality.” Ritter believes that increased demand will eventually reduce the costs associated and positively impact the entire model. From producer to consumer, everyone benefits. “Consumers expect technology to improve their products and additive manufacturing is a clear example of this.”
F3D & Wiivv Partnership
Within the last five years, the relationship between Wiivv and GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) has grown leaps and bounds. What began as a request for prototypes and assistance with R&D has turned into mass production of custom goods and what Ritter refers to as a full supply relationship. “Every day, companies are striving to simplify their supply chain. They don’t want to carry inventory and require quick reaction times. Forecast gives us that flexibility.” F3D currently produces and post-processes custom-fit shells as finished components on a weekly basis for Wiivv.
“This is what we do,” said Burns when asked about whether this business model is applicable to other industries or products. “We have established one of the largest additive manufacturing facilities in the country that is solely dedicated to printing parts on-demand for our clients. Wiivv is a perfect example of what is possible and we are proud to partner with them.” From young, start-up organizations to mature, multimillion-dollar companies, GKN Additive (Forecast 3D) works with them all.