Orthotics: Should you stop outsourcing and bring production in house?

In the realm of medical devices, insole orthoses stand out as critical tools for enhancing patient mobility, comfort, and overall quality of life. Traditionally, the production of these bespoke devices has been a labour-intensive process, requiring meticulous craftsmanship. However, the emergence of 3D printing technology has heralded a new era in orthotic fabrication, offering unprecedented precision, customization, and efficiency. Among the vanguards of this revolution is the Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W SLS 3D printer, utilising Nylon 11 and Polypropylene powder to create hard shell insole orthoses tailored to individual needs.

Formlabs Fuse 3D Printing Orthotics In-house

The Rise of SLS 3D Printing in Orthotic Fabrication

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing has transformed the landscape of orthotic device manufacturing. Unlike traditional methods that often involve manual moulding, casting or CNC, SLS technology is an additive process that utilises a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of polymer powder into solid structures, layer by layer. This technique allows for the production of orthoses that perfectly conform to the patient’s unique foot anatomy whilst reducing material waste and addition manual processes.

For in-house production, the Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W system stands at the forefront of this technology, offering a combination of speed, precision, and complete workflow including the Fuse Blast automated post-processing. The Fuse 1+ 30W has a small footprint making it easy to fit into a smaller clinic or lab and easy to scale as the business grows. The ability to add additional Fuse 1+ 30W printers at an affordable price adds extra capacity and redundancy which would just not be feasible with other industrial 3D printing solutions. The accessibility of the Fuse 1+ 30W system is unmatched for the in-house production of durable and comfortable insole orthoses.

Material Matters: Nylon 11 and Polypropylene Powder

Choosing the right material is crucial for the success of 3D printed insole orthoses. Nylon 11 and Polypropylene powder are among the preferred materials due to their unique properties. Nylon 11 is celebrated for its flexibility and impact resistance, making it ideal for orthotic devices that require both durability and comfort. It also exhibits excellent biocompatibility, ensuring safety and suitability for medical applications. Polypropylene powder, on the other hand, is known for its lightweight nature and fatigue resistance, offering a lower cost alternative that is both sturdy and comfortable for prolonged use. You can read more in our other blog post Nylon 11 or Polypropylene? Which is best for SLS 3D Printed Orthotics?

Application Spotlight: Hard Shell Insole Orthoses

The journey from concept to reality for hard shell insole orthoses involves several key steps, starting with a detailed scan of the patient’s foot to capture every contour and arch. This data is then used to design a custom orthotic device that fits seamlessly, providing targeted support and relief. The Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W excels in turning these designs into tangible products, with its SLS technology ensuring each layer is fused with precision. The result is a set of orthoses that not only fit perfectly but also withstand the rigours of daily use, enhancing patient mobility and comfort.

This video shows the process of creating custom insoles on the Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W SLS 3D Printer.

Why Choose Thinglab?

At Thinglab we pride ourselves on our in-house expertise and experience with additive manufacturing technologies. We have been Formlab’s preferred partner in Australia since 2016 so understand their hardware, software and workflows better than anyone else. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing comprehensive support, both before and after purchasing a system, ensuring that customers can do what they know best without having to worry about the technology.


The integration of SLS 3D printing technology in orthotic fabrication represents a significant leap forward in patient care. With the Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W and advanced materials like Nylon 11 or Polypropylene powder, creating custom insole foot orthoses in-house has never been more accessible and affordable. If you would like to explore the possibilities of 3D printing foot orthoses, reach out to Thinglab and learn how we can work together to improve patient outcomes. You may also be interested in this free webinar that discusses the benefits of the Formlabs Fuse 1+ 30W for insole shel production and how the Nylon 11 powder performed in independent testing.

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