Custom Footwear Start-Up Is Rethinking The Concept Of Additive Manufacturing

Light Insoles, founded by former developer of world’s lightest material, is focused on creating a lower-cost, faster manufacturing technique for high-quality, custom-shaped athletic insoles or orthotics

How does someone go from helping invent the world’s lightest material to starting a custom insole company? Materials science can take people in strange directions.

Light Insoles (lightinsoles.com), founded by Alan Jacobsen Ph.D., has developed a new technique that combines concepts of additive manufacturing and traditional composites manufacturing to create custom shaped insoles for footwear.

“If your goal is to make thin custom-shaped parts, such as shoe insoles or orthotics, building up your part layer-by-layer makes sense, just not the way a 3D printer does it”, says Jacobsen. “Composites manufacturing, which builds up layers of long reinforcement fibers is a better approach. The only problem is that traditional composites manufacturing usually requires expensive tooling and long heat cycles to make a part.”

That’s where Jacobsen’s new Mold-to-Sole Technology comes in. By using light-curing resin instead of heat-curing resin to bond together the reinforcement fibers, Light Insoles can manufacture high-quality, custom-shaped composite insoles in just minutes without the need for any expensive tooling. This new light-curing technique also utilizes energy efficient UV-LEDs and eliminates the need for any materials containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds), making the process environmentally friendly.

Jacobsen and his wife, Caitlin, both have a passion for cycling and running, which is why they started their family business with insoles designed specifically for these activities. “I’ve had custom orthotics in the past and didn’t like the bulky feel, so when my husband said he had a better way for making custom insoles, I was skeptical. But after running over 700 miles in them so far, I don’t want to run without them,” said Caitlin Jacobsen, creator of the blog LA Running Mama (larunningmama.com).

Regarding the cycling insoles, Jacobsen says, “Our Light Insoles are ultrathin, so they can easily fit into your cycling shoes, but they are also very supportive to help transfer all the load from your foot to the pedal. And because they are custom shaped to your foot, they are extremely comfortable.”

Light Insoles are currently being offered through a new crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (kickstarter.com/projects/1551198622/light-custom-performance-running-and-cycling-insol).

ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Before founding Light Insoles, Dr. Jacobsen was an integral part of the team at HRL Laboratories that developed the Ultralight Metallic Microlattice, which at the time, held the record for the World’s Lightest Material. Jacobsen also co-founded Architected Materials, Inc., a spin-out company commercializing another light-curing technology he developed while at HRL. Jacobsen holds a Ph.D. from University of Southern California, MS from Northwestern University, and BS from New Mexico State University.

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