UM researchers launch 3D printed orthotics manufacturing program

A team of researchers at the University of Michigan have devised 3D printed prosthetics and orthotics that are customized as per the patient’s requirements. These clinicians say that the new cyber manufacturing devices are much more advanced than the conventional manufacturing devices.

Prior to the installation of the new systems, users had to wait for long periods for receiving the prosthetics. Now after the 3D system has been installed, the waiting period is just a day. Each device will be customized as per the patient’s measurements, giving greater comfort, fit, and functionality. Prosthetics are equipment that replaces the limbs while orthotics are used to support and heal injured body parts. Currently, the department at UM is engaged in devising orthotics for the feet to help stroke patients recover fast and learn to walk as before. Children with cerebral palsy, myelomeningocele and other medical conditions will also benefit from the support offered to the legs by 3D printed orthotics.

Albert Shih, the UM professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, said that they are looking forward to a technology where patients to come for a scan and the clinician will devise a customized pair of orthotics using the cloud-based software, in only a matter of few hours. The first step of this process is a 3D scan of the patient using imaging technology. Specialists then upload the scan to a cloud-based design center, and the orthotic designing process begins. Design files are then sent back to the UM center, where an on-site 3D printer starts processing the orthotic layer-by-layer. It takes just a matter of few hours to complete the manufacturing process.

Conventional processes require huge amounts of time and equipment. This new system requires minimal equipment like the scanner, a computer, and a 3D printing device. The UM 3D printing device was developed by Robert Chisena, a Ph.D. student at UM. This structure is called “sparse structure” as it allows the manufacture of sparsely hollow objects.
The UM project is jointly funded by America Makes and the National Science Foundation. The 3D printed is provided by Stratasys.

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