Wematter announced a new client that could prove to be a profitable avenue for future sales.
Wematter is a Swedish 3D print startup that manufactures an interesting device that uses the powder-based SLS process. They’ve been quite active in the past couple of years. They have:
- Developed powerful 3D print management software
- Introduced a new quality control system, “Atmosphere”
- Launched a specialized post processing accessory
- Raised a huge investment round
- Expanded their production facility (with the investment cash)
Their system is designed for general purpose 3D printing use by industry, and from all accounts their products were well-regarded. Wematter announced a new client, Footlabs, had acquired a Gravity SLS 3D printer.
Footlabs is a UK-based operation that is billed as the “Leading UK specialists in high quality, custom made orthotics”. Orthotics are personalized inserts for shoes that support our unique feet geometries in a more comfortable manner.
Typically custom orthotics were made by hand, but in recent years there has been a push towards manufacturing using digital processes such as CNC machining, 3D scanning and 3D printing. That’s what is offered by Footlabs, who have a scanning service, and a sophisticated modeling software tool. This tool is allows their technicians to perform:
- Fore foot and rear foot posting
- Site specific pads/reliefs
- Neurophysiological rectifications
- Accurate shoe grading and template import facility
While Footlabs has previously used CNC machining, they are now stepping into custom 3D printing by means of a Wematter Gravity 3D printer. They explain:
”This exciting new phase of our business is one we are currently exploring! Machining orthoses with desktop cryogenics, or using an open-source ‘3D printer’ that can replicate orthoses and also itself, may seem like the stuff of science fiction. But these technologies are on the verge of being viable in our field, and Footlabs intend to be at forefront of employing this ground-breaking technology!”
While this appears to be a single machine sale, it could indicate a future path for Wematter. Quite often 3D printer manufacturers produce a general purpose machine, but find the market too competitive. Eventually they encounter a specific niche market that their equipment serves well, and then the game is to push hard on that market.
A good example of this phenomenon was Formlabs, who produced a general purpose resin 3D printer. Eventually they ran into the dental market, and they’ve been hugely successful developing products for that market.
Could Wematter be at the same point in their lifecycle? Could they dive deep into the orthotic 3D printing market?
If so, they would have some competition, as several other companies have been looking hard at that market. HP has been working in this market, and their technology has been used by Superfeet.
There is also the PodoPrinter, a curious 3D printer that is specifically designed to 3D print midsoles. That device could very likely be adapted to 3D print custom orthotics if required.
The path forward for Wematter in footwear is therefore unclear, but orthotics is an underserved market right now and someone will have to fill the need.