For most consumers, 3-D printing technology is still widely associated with printing novelty items like memes and cell phone cases. Sure, that's cool and all – but who really needs 3-D printed tchotchkes?
Not Kegan Schouwenburg. As the co-founder and CEO of SOLS, a startup that manufactures custom 3-D printed insoles using scans of customers' feet, Schouwenburg is more than a little personally invested in redefining 3-D printing as an affordable way to create products that don't just look cool, but actually improve the way we live.
"I don't want a customized cell phone cover," she says.
In her opinion, 3-D technology still suffers from a "relevance gap." While beloved by a small community of techies, it's yet to be appreciated or really understood by the general public.
Over the next five to 10 years, she predicts this will change as designers learn to incorporate the technology to improve how products look and more importantly, how they feel. She envisions a near-future in which shoppers, when purchasing shoes online, have the option of customization, so that they perfectly conform to a 3-D scanned model of their feet. "We think about the potential for SOLS to become the Intel of footwear," she says. "That’s such a cool version of the future."
Watch the above video to hear Schouwenburg's vision of how 3-D printing will affect shoppers everywhere, whether it's at Target, on Zappos.com or at a high-end boutique in Milan.