Apr 19, 2018 | By David

We reported last year on a major collaboration between chemicals giant BASF and 3D printing materials company Essentium, intended to develop a range of new materials solutions for 3D printing and other applications. A major breakthrough has recently been achieved by the partners, with Essentium’s subsidiary brand TriFusion Devices leveraging one of BASF’s advanced materials to develop an important new prosthetic device. The new prosthetic is the strongest 3D printed thermoplastic/carbon fiber definitive prosthetic leg socket available on the market.

The device was 3D printed using BASF’s Ultramid polyamide material, reinforced with short carbon fiber. This combination of high-performance materials means that the prosthetic is lightweight but also tough, and more flexible than other carbon fiber-reinforced prosthetics. The material properties will enable it to be regularly adjusted throughout its lifecycle. This is a crucial aspect that sets it apart from similar devices. Small adjustments can be made in increments of 2-3 mm without weakening the socket, which will ensure that it is always a comfortable fit for a patient.

After development of the device, the companies enlisted the help of Michigan-based clinic Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics for testing and practical validation from patients and clinicians. Anew Life owner Chris Casteel is an amputee as well as a clinician and former manufacturing professional, so he is well-suited to evaluating the effectiveness of the TriFusion device. He will be providing the companies with real-time feedback on the prosthetic socket's performance from his patients, so improvements and adjustments can be made at the level of materials as well as the 3D printing process.

''Just like anything else, it’s one thing to hear about a product like this, but another thing to actually feel and touch it,'' Casteel said. ''We received extremely positive feedback from patients on the 3D printed test sockets and it is incredible to see and feel how well they fit. This is a huge success for the prosthetic industry and I look forward to seeing what comes next.''

As well as the improved materials used, the implementation of 3D printing technology in the manufacturing of this prosthetic device means that the process is significantly quicker and more efficient. A conventional carbon fiber prosthetic socket would typically take three days of labor by a technician to mold and to cast. 3D printing allows the workflow to be streamlined, with a detailed scan being captured of a patient’s anatomy and a digital model being designed, which can then be quickly printed. The whole process takes less than 24 hours, from the intial scan to shipping.

The 3D printed socket, along with a prosthetic leg and foot also produced by Essentium’s TriFusion Devices subsidiary, will be on display at this year’s NPE plastics show in Washington, D.C. The next step for the companies’ partnership is the production of a multi-material 3D printed prosthetic, with rigid and flexible TPU elements. This is intended to allow clinicians to incorporate softer material into the design, for increased patient comfort in more sensitive areas. It should be ready for release sometime later this year.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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