Sep 19, 2016 | By Nick

Create Orthotics and Prosthetics has created a new 3D printing system specifically for the medical industry that could slash costs and help patients get on with their lives.

As the company name suggests, the 3D printer is focused on orthotics and prosthetics. It allows users that can range from private specialists through to hospitals to 3D print eight different devices that include inner sockets, diagnostic sockets, wrist braces, partial hands, fingers, leg covers and even entire arms. This could slash the time it takes to give a patient a new prosthetic and make the whole process much more affordable.

“We are excited to introduce an easy-to-use 3D printing system that is medical-grade and empowers clinicians to provide the latest in care options to their patients,” said Create O&P CEO Jeff Erenstone. “I’ve been using this system in my three clinics for the past year and have made my patients very happy with customized devices that fit well and look great.”

It’s an all-in-one kit that covers the whole process, from 3D scanning the affected body part to 3D printing the prosthetic itself. It’s easy to see how this could be an invaluable addition to any hospital in the world as it can streamline the process, take pressure off the specialists at the hospital and free up their time for more valuable things. The system includes the O&P 3D printer, a 3D scanner, 3D model slicing software and a large supply of Create’s proprietary, medical grade filament.

There’s one other essential ingredient, too, which is the engine behind the whole process. Create O&P has its own designs and a team of designers that work at its base to modify each and every one to the specific patient. So the consultant can take the scan, which then goes to the designers for the custom work. They send the file and they get a customized, print-ready file back from Create O&P. Hours later, it can be ready to go and it can even have a custom finish and a choice of colors.

“Clinicians can design some devices, such as diagnostic sockets or flexible inner sockets, on their own using CAD/CAM, or use Create O&P’s design services to design and code custom devices for their patients,” explained Erenstone. “Our system cuts about 50% of the time that a clinician typically spends fabricating a similar device. While the print may take several hours or up to a day, the hands-on component of lab time is drastically reduced. It really is plug and play, and we will be there to get you up and running.”

It’s an ingenious concept in theory and we’re curious to see how it works in practice. All of the logistics are removed and the prosthetic could be produced on site within hours of taking the initial scan. Technically there shouldn’t be any issues with the fit and that means that the first fitting should be the last.

With traditional manufacturing techniques, fitting a prosthetic arm or leg was a drawn out and hugely expensive process. It was common for a patient to have four or even five appointments to get the fit right and the consultant would have to make an interim prototype each and every time. The generally accepted figure for a prosthetic leg with traditional manufacturing is $20,000-$30,000.

The final fit of a prosthetic limb can still be far from perfect and ‘pistoning’, where the leg moves up and down inside a cup, is a real issue for many patients. It can cause bruising, infection and affect their gait and confidence. So a snug fit based on a 3D scan would be a real step forward.

It’s good for the clinician, too, as Create O&P estimates that this process will cost 65% less than outsourcing the design to a print company that can handle the medical-grade requirements. This is just the beginning, too, it’s a system that will expand over time and Create O&P intends to upgrade the 3D printer’s capabilities. So consultants can take on more work, safe in the knowledge that they have an entire 3D printing system in house that can deal with most orthotic and prosthetic requirements.

The 3D printing filament itself is a proprietary, medical grade plastic that offers what Create O&P considers the optimal compromise of flexibility, durability and aesthetic appeal. The company was founded by prosthetic specialists who were dismayed with the quality and finished look of the prosthetic limbs and orthotics they were forced to work with.

3D printing has changed the world of prosthetics forever and will continue to have an impact. Ideas like this are steps along the evolutionary road and one day we will have an AI system that can take the 3D scan and create the prosthetic without any human input.

That day is some way off, though. For now, we’re happy to see how technology can have a positive impact on the lives of the less fortunate and give everyone a better quality of life.




Posted in 3D Printer



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