3D-printed insoles measure sole pressure directly in the shoe

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The insoles, together with the integrated sensors and conductive tracks, are proThe insoles, together with the integrated sensors and conductive tracks, are produced in just one step on a 3D printer. (Photograph: Marco Binelli / ETH Zurich)
Researchers at ETH Zurich, Empa and EPFL are developing a 3D-printed insole with integrated sensors that allows the pressure of the sole to be measured in the shoe and thus during any activity. This helps athletes or patients to determine performance and therapy progress.

Running data soon to be read out wirelessly

Tests showed the researchers that the additively manufactured insole works well. "So with data analysis, we can actually identify different activities based on which sensors responded and how strong that response was," Siqueira says.

At the moment, Siqueira and his colleagues still need a cable connection to read out the data; to this end, they have installed a contact on the side of the insole. One of the next development steps, he says, will be to create a wireless connection. "However, reading out the data hasn’t been the main focus of our work so far."

In the future, 3D-printed insoles with integrated sensors could be used by athletes or in physiotherapy, for example to measure training or therapy progress. Based on such measurement data, training plans can then be adjusted and permanent shoe insoles with different hard and soft zones can be produced using 3D printing.

Although Siqueira believes there is strong market potential for their product, especially in elite sports, his team hasn’t yet taken any steps towards commercialisation.

Researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and EPFL were involved in the development of the insole. EPFL researcher Danick Briand coordinated the project, and his group supplied the sensors, while the ETH and researchers developed the inks and the printing platform. Also involved in the project were the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) and orthopaedics company Numo.
Peter Regg