Sep 16, 2014 | By Alec

On the 14th of September, a brand-new crowdfunding initiative was launched that seeks to greatly improve the lives of disabled children throughout the world with the help of 3D printing. This inspiring initiative is called Andiamo, which is raising funds to build a service for children suffering from a number of dehabilitating physical defects.

Using 3D printing, the folks behind Andiamo hope to start a service that will quickly and affordably provide high-quality orthopedics to children in need. This initiative was started by Naveed and Samiya Parvez, who themselves have lost their son Diamo to complications originating in his cerebral palsy.

Throughout their son's life, they experienced the agonizing and slow process that awaits children who need custom-made prosthetics or orthoses. And it's a very expensive handicap to have, especially for young children. A simple brace can easily cost thousands of dollars to get, and will have to be replaced every few months as children quickly outgrow them.

This inspired them to build a 3D printing service that will 'reduce wait times from 6 months to just a few days for back braces, hand splints, and ankle foot orthoses. Using 3D scanning and printing, we can not only make them quickly but also increase quality.'

As they explained on their Indigogo crowdfunding initiative, they have done expensive market and user research during the past twelve months. While they believe this service is absolutely viable, investors have remained uninterested 'We learned that Andiamo is deemed by traditional investors as a risky venture as we aim to disrupt an industry that hasn't changed in over a hundred years. Traditional investors don't like risky ventures.'

Furthermore, many investors just don't understand the market. 'It's a massive market that's actually served by a very tiny number of people. The actual knowledge of how big it is, is very tiny.' And investors are quickly scared off by a market that doesn't service a whole lot of people.

However, as the cries from orthotics patients and their families have been unending, they've decided to turn to crowdfunding to realise this live-improving service. 'We want to build an initial service with real patients to prove market traction to those investors so that we can then attract the next round of funding or investment towards a fully operational service.'

Examples of back braces created from 3D scans of people

To start this service, the team behind Andiamo hopes to raise £30,000 initially, though they hope to completely smash that target so they can help more families. £30,000 will allow Andiamo to work with just two families for a period of up to six months, which is just not enough. Because orthotics are quickly outgrown, they need a 12-month period to work with these families. Therefore the stretch goal is £100,000, which means they can work with 5 families for the whole 12 months. And remarkably, even this very large sum is still much smaller than the medical bills these families would otherwise receive over the same period.

With this money, they will start up a service for those families for a period of 12 months, which will allow them to properly address all the issues over that period and will educate them on the process. The families involved won't face any more bills during this period. 'We've just started improving the lives of disabled children and their families. We're not going to stop. Ever.'

The team will work together with the 3D printing experts behind Digits2Widgets, who have extensive experience with applying industrial strength 3D printers for medical situations. They will also be collaborating with several UK universities and an ongoing research project of Kingston University.

Together, they will map the spectrum of conditions that can and cannot benefit from printing and set up a functioning scanning, printing and delivering system. After this initial period of testing and preparation, this service will then be opened up to others. 'Our overall approach is to build a coalition of users, parents, clinicians, and other experts that fundamentally believe that the way health is being delivered is changing to put the power in the individuals hands.'

Of course, even the most optimistic readers will have some questions regarding their set-up. After all, they cannot yet guarantee that this will result in a functioning service, and there are few other flaws involved as well. For instance, the British National Health Service tried to develop a similar structure, but quickly gave up.

However, this team is utterly dedicated to their cause, and have stepped up to a challenge that traditional giants in the medical industry have neglected to tackle. And if you read more about the hardships Naveed and Samiya Parvez had to endure for their Diamo, then who wouldn‎'t want to make a small contribution to spare other parents the agony?

For Diamo was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, was quadriplegic and had very little head control. This meant that he required extensive treatment to help with his posture through a number of braces, splints and gators. The small boy could not communicate, hated cold things touching him, hated being on his back for any length of time and was not able to understand what was happening to him. As the parents explained, they were forced through a repetitive, agonizingly slow and expensive cycle of events every year:

1. Consultant referred us to an orthotist.
2. At the orthotist appointment Diamo had to be stripped for the mould to go on his skin.
3. He was covered in Plaster of Paris to get a mould, this was done first with him lying on his front.
4. The Plaster of Paris took about 10 minutes to dry, hopefully we would have been able to keep him still long enough for the mould to be dry enough for it to be removed.
5. This was then repeated with him on his back, which he absolutely detested and would scream throughout the procedure.
6. Measurements were then taken of his hips and legs.
7. We would then wait between 8-13 weeks for it to be created using moulded plastic and metal.
8. When it was ready we went for a fitting by which time he had grown and it had to be modified. If we were lucky it was just a quick modification, and if we were not it meant we had to go back for multiple adjustments.
9. The process was trial and error, sometimes the brace would be ever so slightly out, leading to sores and marks. For example if the bit under the arm was not cut properly it could bruise him under his armpit. We also cut strips of sheepskin to put inside the knee abductors to reduce sores.
10. This would then have to be repeated after 6-9 months after he outgrew they back brace.

Although the results were worth it, why not work to improve it for everyone involved? Adopting 3D printing will allow the creation of much lighter, more practical braces (traditional ones can weigh several kilos), that can be delivered within days and cost a fraction of the original price. While we will have to wait and see if this project is actually viable, it is nonetheless a noble and potentially extremely helpful application of 3D printing. That in itself makes it worthy of attention. Be sure to check out their crowdfunding campaign!

Check out the video detailing Andiamo's project:


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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