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Innovation Spotlight: Custom Footwear Start-Up Ventures into Additive Manufacturing

by Melissa DeDonder

UV+EB Technology

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Dr. Alan Jacobsen founded Light Insoles following a successful research and development career in the areas of advanced materials, manufacturing and product development.


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Light Insoles uses a new manufacturing technique that combines the concepts of additive manufacturing and traditional composites manufacturing to create a high-quality, custom-shaped insole for the athletic and orthotic markets.


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Caitlin Jacobsen, seen here with husband Alan Jacobsen, plays an integral role at Light Insoles. As an avid runner and cyclist, she serves as the primary product tester and has logged more than 700 miles in her custom insoles. She also manages the companyís social media efforts, which includes a Kickstarter campaign.

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Save the Date: Webinar

  • Watch for an expanded article about Alan Jacobsen and Light Insoles in a future issue of UV+EB Technology magazine. In the meantime, donít miss his upcoming webinar – UV-Curing Technology as an Innovation Platform – from 2-3 p.m. EST, on May 13. Hear two examples about UV-curing enabling new manufacturing processes targeting non-traditional applications, such as sandwich structure cores, helmet pads and footwear. Learn more about the webinar and register at www.esf.edu/outreach/uvebwebinar.
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How does someone transition from helping invent the worldís lightest material to starting a custom insole company? Dr. Alan Jacobsen said the world of materials science works in mysterious ways. His start-up company – Light Insoles – has developed a new technique that combines the concepts of additive manufacturing and traditional composites manufacturing to create a high-quality, custom-shaped insole for the athletic and orthotic markets.

"I decided to rethink how custom footwear products are made... to create more than just a new insole company with great products. I founded Light Insoles to demonstrate that new innovative ideas in advanced materials and manufacturing can create better performing, fully customized products at a price point that is comparable to mass-produced products – true, functional mass customization," Jacobsen said.

He said that while it theoretically makes sense to make thin, custom-shaped parts by building them layer-by-layer, it simply doesnít make sense to do it the way that a 3D printer does it. "Composites manufacturing builds up layers of long reinforcement fibers, which is a better approach, but traditional composites manufacturing usually requires expensive tools and long heat cycles."

Thatís where Jacobsenís innovation – Mold-to-Sole Technology – is a game changer. By using light-curing resin to bond the reinforcement fibers, Light Insoles can manufacture high-quality, custom-shaped composite insoles in minutes, without the need for heat-curing resin and expensive tools. This new light-curing technique also utilizes energy efficient UV-LEDs and eliminates the need for any materials containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making the process environmentally friendly as well.

Light Insoles specializes in developing insoles for runners and cyclists, a business decision driven by his and his wifeís passion for the two activities. "I didnít like the bulky feel of traditional custom orthotics," said Caitlin Jacobsen, creator of the LA Running Mama blog and Jacobsenís wife. "When my husband said he had a better way to create custom insoles, I was skeptical at first, but after running more than 700 miles in them, I donít want to run without them now." Caitlin Jacobsen plays an integral role in the company, serving as primary product tester and managing the companyís social media efforts.

Learn more about Light Insoles and its products at www.lightinsoles.com, or purchase a pair of your own custom insoles while supporting the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign at www.kickstarter.com.

Dr. Alan Jacobsen founded Light Insoles following a successful research and development career in the areas of advanced materials, manufacturing and product development. Earning many accolades along the way, Jacobsenís career highlights include more than 40 issued patents and more pending, being published in top scientific journals, as well as being honored such as the 2012 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award. He served as an integral part of the team at HRL Laboratories, LLC that developed the ultralight metallic microlattice, which held the record for being the worldís lightest material at that time. Jacobsen also co-founded Architected Materials, Inc., a spin-off company commercializing another light-curing technology he developed while at HRL. Contact Alan Jacobsen at alan.jacobsen@lightinsoles.com.