Jul 9, 2018 | By Thomas

3D printing technology is being used to make individually-tailored prosthetics and orthopaedic supports that compensate for a lack of a limb, deformity or paralysis.

In many low-income and middle-income countries, only 5 to 15 percent of people who need a prosthetic limb or orthopaedic brace get one. Furthermore, in remote or dangerous areas, specialized health professionals can be scarce and materials expensive.

As a solution to some of these problems, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) has launched a new trial in Madagascar and Togo which utilizes 3D scanning and printing to provide affordable prosthetics.

The 3D printing technology being trialled in Madagascar and Togo by HI, formerly Handicap International, allows the bespoke devices to be produced faster and reach a larger number of patients.

"Our teams act on the frontlines of the world's most pressing emergencies, promote disability rights, provide rehabilitation, and ensure people live safely after conflict," the organization says.

HI is part of Impact 3D, an ambitious project funded by the Belgian Development Agency backed by 700,000 euros ($816,000) of funding from the Belgian Development Agency. Impact 3D has been running in Togo, Mali and Niger since November last year, where 100 patients are getting made-to-measure 3D devices for free. And fifty of the 100 patients will be in Togo.

The process involves a small, lightweight 3D scanner which creates a digital model of the amputated limb. The 3D scan can then be used to create a digital mold according to the patients’ needs using the computer-modeling software. The design is then sent to a 3D printer which creates a bespoke socket out of thermoplastics to fit the shape of the patient’s amputated limb.

“It saves us a lot of time. As need be, scans can be sent directly by telephone to the specialist in charge of making the digital orthotic on a 3D printer,” said Simon Miriel, Manager at Impact 3D.

The trial only includes 19 participants, but the results appear to be promising. Togo is a good choice, said Miriel. "It is one of the few countries in West Africa which has a good structure for orthopaedic care."

HI says that preliminary findings indicate the 3D printed sockets are a "safe and effective alternative to current socket designs."

“We are excited to move on to phase two of this research. These trials will involve more patients in different locations in order to thoroughly test our methods. 3D printing is unlikely to become the only way of providing prosthetics but we think it could be a great option in certain circumstances,” said Isabelle Urseau, Head of Rehabilitation at Humanity & Inclusion.

The test phase is expected to finish before the end of the year, and will be followed by a long evaluation about the successes and problems, costs and benefits.

It is hoped that should the trials prove successful, the cost of 3D orthopaedic devices will fall dramatically and more low and middle-income countries will benefit from this solution.

The project is in partnership with Strathclyde University, ProsFit Technologies, and Proteor SAS.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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