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Transforming Prosthetics and Orthotics Production with Digital Manufacturing and Industrial 3D Printing

Customization and ease of manufacturing are major factors in manufacturing healthcare devices and accessories, particularly when formed and fitted to the human body as with orthotics and prosthetics. Recent advancements digital manufacturing have revolutionized the industry, making the design and manufacturing of customized devices quicker, easier, more affordable and more flexible than previously possible.

Revolutionized manufacturing processes

 

Traditional manufacturing methods require multiple steps and significant time to make. For each piece the designer must cast the affected body part, make and adjust a mold, produce the item, and go through the fitting and adjustment process.  If there is a major flaw or adjustment required in the design, the whole process must be repeated.

With digital manufacturing, the process is much more streamlined and precise, with less wasted time and materials. The practitioner can precisely measure the affected part with a 3D scanner, then upload the file to industry-specific CAD software to design and adjust the model.  The adjusted model is then sent to a 3D printer for final manufacturing. With more advanced 3D printers, like HP Multi Jet Fusion, multiple devices can be produced at once, and design revisions or replacements can be completed quickly and easily.

Benefits of digital manufacturing of orthotics and prosthetics

 

In addition to creating a more efficient workflow, the adoption of digital manufacturing of medical devices is driving innovation in design, and resulting in better fit and functionality for the end-user. Some of the key benefits of digital manufacturing of orthotics and prosthetics include:

  • Customization: By varying the thickness of the material, the stiffness and strength can be controlled across multiple dimensions of the final device. This enables designers to create much lighter devices with greater stiffness where support is required and greater flexibility in areas for improved comfort.

  • Advanced structures: design features such as lattices and meshes can improve the performance of the part by increasing stiffness, reducing weight, and enhancing breathability. The design freedom inherent in 3D printing allows greater innovation than previously possible.

  • Part consolidation: with the design freedom of 3D printing, parts can be integrated and printed in one piece with interlocking components and consolidated complex shapes. This can reduce weight and decrease assembly time.

  • Branding and personalization: with digital design products can be personalized with a logo, business name, production number or customer ID.

Leveraging industrial 3D printing technology

 

With advancements in 3D printing technology, manufacturers can experiment with new methods of production with more freedom and creativity, and provide a higher-quality and more user-friendly end product. Among 3D printing options, HP Multi Jet Fusion technology is a popular choice among clinicians and manufacturers with it’s customization possibilities, fast production, affordable materials, minimal waste, and a high-quality product for the patient. The benefits include:

  • Comfort and flexibility: The high-quality materials and design freedom available with technology like Multi Jet Fusion allows manufacturers to improve comfort by reducing weight and thickness where material is not needed, with a minimum thickness of 1 mm.

  • Repeatable, quality parts: industrial 3D printing technology, such as HP Multi Jet Fusion, can produce medical devices with a high level of dimensional accuracy, and isotropic strength and density across the x,y, and z axes.

  • Optimized productivity and less waste: compared with traditional manufacturing methods, industrial 3D printers can reduce manual labor by as much as 6 times. HP Multi Jet Fusion technology also consumes minimal raw materials in it’s manufacturing process, which can reduce waste up to 20 times versus subtractive manufacturing (such as CNCmachining).

  • Rapid production: The ability to manufacture parts within a day and low material cost with HP Multi Jet Fusion means that clinicians can revise, print, and test design variations quickly and easily. This is important in applications such as custom footbeds where factors such as proper alignment, gait and comfort can make a significant difference to the comfort and effectiveness of the end product.