3D-Printing, what is it?
3D-printing is a form of additive manufacturing where a layer upon layer of some sort of media is constructed on itself. Think of it like an inkjet printer but instead of rows on a paper it prints layers of ink to form an object.
There are numerous different aids people use to care for their health from toothbrushes to shoehorns to walkers and wheelchairs and specialist chairs, for example. While easy to produce things like toothbrushes are cheap the more tasking ones like a scoliosis braces are not as they are fully bespoke for the user.
Currently our most important customer is Peacocks (https://www.peacocks.net) from UK and we’ve created a system to automatically create bespoke insoles for them. Naturally similar things can be done for other things too, like braces and durable casts.
The benefit of 3D-printing is that the tools and aids are created faster than handcrafted ones and since the original model in a file it can be recreated at any time. The product can also be easily modified later on or even printed in a different media. Naturally the 3D-scanning equipment is something that usually is used to create perfect models, especially when healthcare aids are concerned. This is where Versoteq can be of especially great service as we offer products that help your company with automatic 3D design and customization of products. This enables you to have near push-button 3D-scanning and printing, among other things.
There are a few different types of braces, but let’s cover orthodontic ones first. There are quite a few ways to do these and some enterprising people have made these themselves, however this is dangerous and thus I won’t show it here. Now for the braces. The newest seems to be the prototype at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology where 3D-printed braces have been mated with near infrared therapy device. The creation of such things is still very involved, however it is easier to mass customize other braces.
Scoliosis, the bending of the spine, is a difficult thing to live with. It will eventually, if not tended to, destroy the spine and while developing it is painful and will make moving and even sitting or lying down uncomfortable if not even painful. The company called UNYQ has 3D printed scoliosis braces that seem to both work and as importantly are comfortable and do not restrict movement.
Other braces or guards
Naturally other types can be made too, from knee braces to arm braces or neck, etc. However, you have to always think of the possible costs labor and thus a short-term brace might not be the financially wise, even if the bespoke versions were far more comfortable. As a personal note, I adore Jake Evill’s 3D-printed cast concept. I have had to wear casts on multiple occasions and some have been worn for over six weeks. This has led to infections and frankly extremely miserable time. I for one am an advocate for patient comfort and safety, thus the Cortex cast is a huge leap forwards in healthcare aids. https://www.dezeen.com/2013/06/28/cortex-3d-printed-cast-for-bone-fractu...
Interestingly the concept of a cast or brace can be modified slightly and made into a sports equipment. Again, this would allow for lighter guards as well as more movement in the limbs. Depending on the printing compounds the guards, pads, etc. would be as durable and safe as standard ones if not even better.
While mobility aids are usually considered their own category, I do consider them a direct healthcare aid. They allow us who are mobility impaired ability to get about, exercise, move, practice sports and so on. Thus, they directly impact our physical and mental health.
Benjamin Hubert’s 3D printed wheelchair is an interesting and promising curiosity and I wish it well. While it does not suit my own needs, the chair itself is a clear indication of what can be done. It is also in production right now.
3D-printing and scanning offers new ways to create and design healthcare and mobility aids and more importantly it is an affordable way to even create one-off aids. However right now it is not cheap but it is still cost effective and allows near unlimited customization of designs and adaptability to any and all users. This adaptability is where Versoteq excels at, our greatest strength is our competence in mass customization and automating tedious and costly and laborious tasks.
For us who have to use aids 3D-printed ones are the future as they can be made specifically to each one of us.