Dissatisfied with working around the clock seven days a week covered in plaster dust and unhappy with the products on the market at the time, podiatrist Artur Maliszewski had the vision to see a niche where he could create the highest-quality foot orthotics with much enhanced speed, accuracy and efficiency.

Starting as a small boutique laboratory servicing a limited number of podiatrists in and around Melbourne, the reputation of Footwork Podiatric Laboratory was soon recognised by others in the profession. Today the company is recognised as one of the leading suppliers of orthotics not only in Australia but around the world.

“One of the keys to our success is our heavy investment in technology and in the design and development of our very own software,” says Maliszewski. “We support podiatrists in optimising their clients’ health outcomes by creating the highest-quality orthotics engineered to precise specifications each and every time using only the finest of materials.

“Orthotics are inserts placed into the shoe to control or correct abnormal lower limb gait and alignment. The aim of a correctly prescribed orthotic is to modify how a client’s foot makes contact with the ground, thereby reducing stress and relieving pain. Today these are an essential part of podiatry in helping to correct muscular and bone alignment to maximise health and reduce pain.”

The path to a highly efficient operation commenced with a referral to Okuma by a colleague of Maliszewski, who had observed his friend working 18-hour days almost seven days a week, with his output was limited to his personal input. With a manufacturing concept to change what was a very manual process, a series of discussions were held with Okuma Australia’s technical team who, having studied the processes, drew in the expertise of laser-scanning company Hitech and other key outside suppliers.

High-level meetings involving experts in scanning, CAD-CAM systems, tooling and engineering result in the evolution of a new method. Plaster-casts sent to Footwork are laser-scanned using a hand-held unit supplied by Hitech, and the data collected is transferred to a CAD-CAM system. This data can then be fine-tuned by an expert podiatrist, with the new form electronically converted to a tool path and forwarded on to an Okuma vertical machining centre where the plaster form can be used to mould the required orthotic blank.

Footwork purchased its first Okuma CNC vertical machining centre in 2008, and it has since commissioned a further two machines. Although not traditionally used for machining material such as the 100%-recyclable polypropylene used to create Footwork’s latest orthotics, the Okuma machines and this material provide a high level of accuracy, with excellent shape retention as well as strong memory retention.

The transition from early manual handmade foot orthotics to precision production has been made using the latest CAD/CAM technology, modern scanning and a heavy investment in precision CNC vertical machining centres, with Okuma’s OPS-P200MA control along with custom software. This has enabled Footwork to deliver specific customer requirements with the highest levels of precision in angles and sizes not previously seen in the industry.

Specification files for all clients are retained electronically so that personalised orthotics can be reproduced to the highest levels of accuracy at short notice well into the future.

The technology has now moved on with podiatrists able to transfer scanned data directly to Footwork Podiatric Laboratory for production. Okuma’s ability to support the various disciplines and expertise involved to bring a successful outcome for Footwork has enabled this client to become highly competitive internationally with quality orthotics.