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This week we’re going to be looking at biometric customization for medical applications as medicine is one of the most active areas in mass customization.
Mass customized medical braces, 3D printed prosthetics and surgical guides are being used in tens of thousands of people. Mass customized hearing aids are one of the most prevalent 3D printed items in the world with millions being made.
3D Printed Braces and Casts
This customized 3D printed wrist fracture brace not only fits perfectly but can also be personalized.
A lot of people are excited by the prospect of 3D printing custom braces and casts based on a 3D scan. Not yet prevalent in the medical world this idea has many firms experimenting with them at the moment. Hand braces are popular in the press but things such as Scott Summit’s scoliosis braces are already helping patients.
A 3D printed custom scoliosis brace.
3D Printed Prosthetics and Fairings
That same Scott Summit is also the person to first commercialize 3D printed custom fairings and leg prosthetics. These 3D printed prosthetics not only are made to fit perfectly but have a sense of style and purpose to them. Rather than trying to imitate a lost leg they use design to make a beautiful technological alternative to a leg.
In The Ear (ITE) hearing aids were first customized by making them by hand. These hearing aids fit inside one’s ear so a unique shape for each ear canal improved the wearers fit. Handmade hearing aids were cost prohibitive however so manufacturers turned to 3D printing to make one of a kind hearing aids. A wax mold is made of a person’s ear canal. This is then 3D swcanned. Automated software then checks and repairs this file. Using Envisiontec DLP machines or 3D Systems SLA (stereolithography) machines, hearing aid shells are 3D printed based on this scan. The electronics are then placed inside the hearing aid and it is assemled. By 3D printing customized hearing aids a well fitting ITE hearing aid can be made for each person. The 3D printed hearing aids are cost effective and have taken over nearly the entire customized hearing aid market.
Several 3D printed hearing aid shells made on an Envisiontec 3D printer.
A Consensus Orthopedics and Materialise Knee Surgical Guide.
With 3D printed mass customized surgical guides a CT or MRI scan is used to make a file. This file is then used by the doctor to plan the surgery and determine where she needs to drill, cut or place something. The unique surgical guide is then 3D printed in polyamide powder and implanted. The surgical guide precisely lets the surgeon carry out her operation and is then removed. Tens of thousands surgical guides make orthopedic and oral surgery procedures safer each year.