"R and D" is the most important component of any orthotic design and is critical to get a product to its final production phase. Every single Footbionic has been improved since we first started manufacture 6 years ago. We have improved our fabrics, the mould shape, foam materials and densities, and even raw foam ingredients. There are many prototypes that are made purely for testing in the initial stages with many never getting past the first testing phase. We certainly like to try different materials and combinations – it’s also the fun part of our job. Footbionics prides itself on incorporating several key processes in its product research.
Plantar Pressure Measuring
Tekscan “in shoe” pressure measuring insoles are used to help in the design and selection of materials in our range. This amazing system provides accurate pressure mapping so that we can identify orthotic forces on the foot itself. Pressure mapping is used by almost every major athletic shoe company to help them design and refine their footwear. We are at a distinct advantage when it comes to choosing materials given we can precisely measure cushioning benefits. Tekscan can even highlight subtle foot movement within a shoe. The system is placed inside the shoe (on top of the orthotic) and is wirelessly linked to a remote computer. This enables us to even have subjects perform tasks such as playing netball, landing, running, and cycling within a 100m range. We are one of the few companies we know of to use this in our R and D.
CAD orthotic design
CAD design is now extensively utilised in the footwear industry. We use CAD to refine shapes via the software so have a 3D model to review before a prototype is manufactured. Our initial sample foam orthoses are constructed from plaster or acrylic moulds. We review these for overall shape and function as well as shoe fit. These are usually refined several times via CAD before the final orthotic shape is made. This is done in conjunction with product testing given this process occurs before the final shape and materials are approved.
Product design collaboration
These are provided for select podiatrists and patients to trial and offer subjective feedback. With their information we can make further refinements and changes if required before a product is launched. A podiatrist may like a feature or design element and yet a patient may trial this and not like it so much. They may in fact prefer something completely different. This process can be painstaking however is well worth the wait.
Wear testing is another ongoing part of our R and D. We have select users of the product involved with this process. They will use the product and send this back with a completed form on the product trialled for us. This phase of our R and D can be the most rewarding with subjective feedback matching our preliminary thoughts on the product. Sometimes things don’t always pan out as expected and if this occurs repeatedly then we take the product back to the drawing board.