“3D printing has offered us a freedom to design and manufacture,” says Deepak Kalaskar, an associate professor in the Department of Orthopedic and Musculoskeletal Science at University College London, with expertise in biomedical engineering. “We are currently very much at the infancy of 3D printing, but that’s not stopping anyone from thinking about how we are going to use this revolutionizing technology.”
Pain relief through personalization
More than three-quarters of Americans will experience foot pain at some point in their lives, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Arize Orthotic Solution, an end-to-end digital solution developed with HP technology, is designed to relieve some of that pain with better-fitting, 3D-printed custom orthotics.
Using Arize, doctors can capture an image of a patient's foot with a scanner in as little as two minutes. From there, the software lets the doctor review the foot’s scan, choose and customize an insole, and send the order to a 3D-printing facility. When the insoles eventually wear out or if the patient wants a pair of orthotics for a different style of shoe, the same measurements can be used to reorder, saving the patient another trip.
“It’s a more efficient process,” says Gavin Ripp, a podiatrist who’s been using Arize at Premier Podiatry & Orthopedics, in the Sacramento, California, area. “We’re able to get devices back quicker, and they are easy to replicate.”
The new process is not only more precise, it also results in a lower-profile, less clunky device.
“Patients are really liking that they can put them into a wider variety of shoes than what was possible before,” Ripp says.
Better fitting casts and splints
For injuries that require immobilization of part of the body, ActivArmor is the first and only provider of 3D-printed casts and splints, with products for feet, ankles, legs, arms, hands, wrists, and fingers. Besides being custom fit, the casts are waterproof, breathable, and hygienic so the user can bathe like normal. The shell-like structure reveals the skin underneath without reducing strength and durability.
“In a traditional cast, you can only see at the two ends of the cast — everything inside, including movement, is hidden,” says Diana Hall, CEO of ActivArmor. “With ActivArmor, you can see and make adjustments throughout the course of healing, which improves outcomes.”