Department of Mechanical Engineering

Cryogenic machining for shoe soles and insoles (Cryosis)

Department of Mechanical Engineering in collaboration with Renishaw Ltd.

cryosis

Challenge

Personalised, made-to-measure footwear can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of those suffering with conditions such as diabetes or obesity. However, bespoke shoes can be expensive, and currently take considerable time to make, leading to long waiting lists.

For manufacturers, personalised shoes represent a challenge because conventionally these materials have demanded the use of individual moulds, dies and other tools which are highly resource and time intensive.

Solution

Researchers at Bath have created a state of the art technique using super-cooled machining for rubber and other flexible plastic materials, allowing the creation of orthotic shoes on demand at a low price. The system works by cooling soft materials to very low temperatures using liquid nitrogen to achieve temporary solidity allowing milling and drilling - processes conventionally limited to solid materials like metal and wood.

Through working in collaboration with healthcare manufacturing company Renishaw, the researchers demonstrated the viability of this new manufacturing technique called ‘cryogenic machining’.

 

Benefits and outcomes

This project has established the potential market benefits of cryogenic machining to make on-demand customised shoes. The potential customer base includes 250 million people currently suffering with diabetes who would benefit from bespoke footwear.

The technology would allow a reduction in waiting lists through establishing on-site manufacturing systems, and the project identified sales opportunities in hospitals, clinics and specialist footwear retail outlets. It also found a wealth of other applications for the technology, from customised high-performance car parts to bespoke shin pads for footballers.