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With Mass Customization Monday, the Twikit team sorts and sifts through all of the mass customization news to bring you the most relevant and interesting developments in mass customization.
Mecuris CE certifies foot prosthesis
Mecuris a German company producing 3D Printed foot prosthetics has CE certified their prosthetics. Mercuris has a FirStep product for kids and NexStep for adults. These take 3D scan data or MRI and CT scans and turn them into prosthetics. Medical practitioners can then upload this scan data to Mecuris. Mecuris then mass customizes it and generates the resulting 3D file. This file can then be printed out locally. By handling the mass customization part of this with their software and then printing it out locally Mecuris could help offer low cost prosthetics in this way.
A Mecuris load bearing foot prosthetic.
With all of the work E-NABLE and other organizations are taking in 3D Printed prosthetics it is good to see more commercial players enter this market as well. Mecuris’ focus on load bearing prosthetics and the fact that it wants to create the mass customization software for many different prosthetics is an ambitious one. Perhaps there will be a winner takes all vendor in the custom 3D prosthetics market? Could one vendor dominate all custom prosthetics? Surely if that idea is propagated then more startups will join this market.
Mercuris’ full prosthetics will be 3D Printed out locally.
3D Printing can make unique shapes very quickly. A simple 3D printed prosthetic hand could cost around $20 in 3D Printed parts. For many people and countries such low cost prosthetics could be a boon. Mecuris and other companies will have to tackle a number of hurdles however. Different countries have different approval processes for prosthetics. In some countries only a certain group of medical practitioners can design them or fit them. By working with medical practitioners directly Mecuris makes it simple for their technology to be used worldwide. The regulatory burden will be born by the local practitioner. By not centrally 3D Printing prosthetics themselves the company can also radically reduce their cost. But, if Bob does the 3D scans and fits a prosthetic, Sally generates the files for the prosthetic and Jane 3D Prints it who is the designer and who is the manufacturer? Liability would be done differently in different countries and depending on the country Bob, Sally or Jane could be shouldering the product liability over the prosthetic. By not doing the fitting or 3D Printing itself Mecuris also exposes itself to some quality control issues. Someone may be unhappy with their Mecuris prosthetic because the 3D print itself is of a low quality. Or a customer could be unhappy with the comfort of their prosthetic due to the fact that it was fitted incorrectly. The company will have to find some kind of way of ensuring the quality of 3D Prints that it itself does not make. Meanwhile other companies could opt to 3D Print out their own prosthetics and then offer them to medical practitioners to do the scanning and fitting. These companies will have higher costs because the prosthetic needs to be shipped but it would be less hassle for the practitioner and they could ensure the quality of the final prosthetic sold in their name. These challenges will have to be overcome by the company. If these challenges can be overcome however Mecuris or a very similar company could have a major impact on the prosthetics world.
Ministry of Supply “3D Prints” Clothing
Ministry of Supply is a nine location fashion company that wants to enable customized clothing. The company believes in local production and thinks that they can significantly reduce waste by manufacturing locally. They’ve purchased a Shima Seiki knitting machine and want to knit custom garments in store. Shima Seiki makes knitting machines and CAD CAM equipment. The machine a Shima Seiki Mach2Sir is an intarsia knitting machine which can create more complex knitting patterns. In the press this is described as being a 3D Printer and the assertion is that the company is “3D Printing clothing.” This is rather disingenuous since it is not a 3D Printer but a knitting machine. It would make things a little comp confusing if we all of a sudden considered knitting to be a 3D Printing process.
A Ministry of Supply jacket made with a knitting machine.
This is however a significant development. By putting production machinery in the physical store Ministry of Supply is betting on their ability to make things in house close to the consumer. Local manufacturing is a potentially huge trend and locally making clothing and fashion will be a big part of this. At Twikit we believe in local manufacturing and have written more about the power of Local Manufacturing here. By placing a machine in store a locally made thing could be produced with less waste, less transport cost and less C02. This thing could then be made on demand to the exact specifications of the customer, which would require no stock for the retailer and get the customer exactly what they wanted.
This is a much better business model than two years in advance ordering significant stocks in anticipation of future trends. By producing in house in the retail environment their costs per item will be higher but without stock and inventory their cash flow in the long run should be better. The company runs less fashion risk and can anticipate or respond quickly to new trends. We think that it will only be a matter of time for many more companies to customize fashion in house by using inkjet or knitting systems. Our software is optimized for creating mass customizable patterns for such a movement to occur. So we applaud Ministry of Supply’s movement into this arena and wish for many more to do this as well.
Wiiv Custom 3D Printed Sandals on Kickstarter
Wiiv who previously had a successful Kickstarter on custom 3D Printed insoles is now running a custom 3D Printed sandals Kickstarter. The company makes sandals based upon the input from your smartphone. These sandals are then custom 3D Printed using Selective Laser Sintering (Powder Bed Fusion).
A close up on Wiiv’s Custom 3D Printed Sandals.
Sandals and orthotics are a great application for 3D Printing. The objects provide a greater fit and this plays well to 3D Printing’s ability to manufacturing unique items cost effectively. Orthotics have regulatory issues (depending on the country they may have to be certified). But, by offering a custom sandal they can sell them directly to the general public. Shoes are only available in certain sizes and by letting them have unique sizes and uniquely fit your foot they should be able to make a higher performing sole. At Twikit we really believe that 3D Scanning and Digital Manufacturing can have huge impacts on the footwear market. Many companies are now looking at how to adapt this technology for widespread consumer use.
Happy people wearing Wiiv’s custom 3D Printed Sandals.
By using Selective Laser Sintering they will be able to in a highly reliably way produce many of these sandals. SLS is not ideal however. The 3D Printing process creates a highly porous surface texture. This readily absorbs dirt and moisture. The secret to this being successful will be if the Wiiv team has found the right surface coating and tumbling process to close the surface texture of the 3D Print sufficiently for it to function well as a sandal.