Aug 25, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from Belgium have developed an in-shoe foot analysis tool that uses 3D printed markers, consisting of a baseplate and a wand marker, to track foot motion. The kinematics system could improve future footwear designs.

Analysis of foot kinematics can be useful for a variety of reasons. Tracking movement of the feet can allow medical professionals to analyze and assess problems associated with gait, while those in the sporting world can also use such analysis to help athletes improve their performance. Finding out more about how our feet move can also lead to better sporting and everyday footwear.

There are, however, a few obstacles in the way of effective foot kinematics. To accurately track foot movement, a system needs to recognize and differentiate certain areas of the foot. This means that markers need to be placed upon the skin that cameras and other sensing equipment can focus on while the subject walks, runs, or performs whatever action is required by the study.

The problem is that these markers can be tricky to apply, and it’s even harder to ensure that they’re put on the exact same place on the foot across multiple tests. It can also be difficult to find a shoe that the subject can wear while being fitted with these markers.

A new study by researchers Maarten Eerdekens, Filip Staes, Thomas Pilkington, and Kevin Deschamps looks at how 3D printing can be used to solve these problems.

The researchers say they have developed both “novel, magnet-based 3D printed markers for repeated in-shoe measurements” and “accordingly adapted modified shoes for a specific multi-segment foot model.”

In simple terms, these kinematic markers are designed to fit inside a special shoe with holes cut out where they can protrude. Without these holes, the markers would not be visible and could not be tracked by the system.

But there’s another clever feature about the 3D printed markers: they’re designed in two parts, a baseplate and a rod. This means that the almost-flat baseplate can be attached to the foot and still allow a shoe to be put on over the top. Once the shoe is on, the rods can be magnetically attached to the baseplates. (Subjects wouldn’t be able to get their shoes on at all if the rods were attached first, since they protrude too much.)

Both parts of the markers were 3D printed in Stratasys’ VeroWhitePlus Polyjet material, which has a tensile strength of 50–65 MPa, a polymerized density of 1.17 g/cm3, and flexural strength of 110 MPa.

According to the researchers, the 3D printed markers fulfilled their task, allowing the specialists to carry out multi-stage testing while keeping the markers on the same area of the foot.

“Repeatedly taking on and off [marker] wands from the baseplates in static position generates low placement errors as the magnet fitting principle showed a solid robustness,” they said. “This implies that once the baseplates are placed, marker wands can be taken on and off by any other therapist with the knowledge that outcomes will not vary significantly.”

This low error margin means the Belgium-based researchers might have taken a big step towards improved foot kinematics. And with better tracking of foot movement, we could see improvements in sports science, footwear, and other areas.

“The novel 3D printed markers, consisting of a baseplate and a wand marker, are a reliable basis for future settings using in-shoe multi segment foot analysis when shoes [ought] to be taken on and off repeatedly,” the researchers conclude. “Results showed a solid robustness of the magnet fitting principle that allows for reliable kinematic outcomes in a repeated measurement design conducting in-shoe walking trials.”

The study, “A novel magnet based 3D printed marker wand as basis for repeated in-shoe multi segment foot analysis: a proof of concept,” has been published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. It can be read in full here.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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