3D scanners for orthotic applications

May 13, 2020


The way orthoses are made is changing drastically. Optimal healing processes are reached by fully customizing casts, splints, and other orthotic devices to a patient’s specific needs and requirements. Any error or flaw in the design can prevent the patient’s recovery or hinder their functionality. 


Orthoses are frequently made using molds. The traditional process requires a lot of steps and could be executed more efficiently by shifting to a digital workflow. This flow starts with 3D scanning, which captures and creates a 3D image based on a body shape. 3D scanning is a great alternative to traditional, tiresome, and messy measurement methods like plaster casts. On the market, there are many scanners to choose from. Therefore, the objective of this article is to provide you a rather objective overview of several scanners and to highlight some key differences based on use-cases.  


The digital flow 

Digitizing the production flow of orthoses comes with a lot of advantages. A couple of them are the reduced production time, reduced costs, easy adjustments, etc. The process works as follows; It all begins with taking a 3D image of the desired body partwith a 3D scanner. Combining the (modified) digital shape with pre-defined/designed templates of orthoses, the TwikFit Cloud Software then automatically creates a perfectly fitted orthosis around that body shape, which can be further customized according to the patient, client, or clinician’s needs. These easy and fast steps lead to the generation of a production-ready fileready for digital manufacturing (e.g. 3D printing). How and where the production occursdepends on the clinicians/technician’s preference: inhouse on own printer, or sent to a 3D printing partner, where the orthosis will be printed and shipped. If any changes are needed, they can easily be done in the software.  


Creating a good scan is the first important step in digitally creating the perfect orthosis. Many 3D scanners exist to scan upper and lower extremities as well as foot orthotics. Depending on what your application of the scanner is, different scanners with high-level specifications could be recommended for you.  

How to start with 3D scanning?  

Scanners available on the market range from affordable to very expensive prices. If you are new to the 3D scanning and the digital flowit is not easy to choose the right tools. This guide could help you in making a better decision.  


Occipitalfor example, is the pioneer in implementing 3D scanning into the digital flow in the O&P industry. They have already an extensive market reach in multiple industries such as O&P, wearables, …  


The Structure Sensor from Occipital is used as an add-on to your iPad and transforms it into a portable and powerful 3D scanner. This scanner is valued as being the most intuitive, easy to use and affordable option on the market to scan body shapes at sufficient precision. Clinicians receive an inexpensive, high quality solution to innovate and elevate their customer experience to a new level.  


This Structure Sensor is a goto scanner for starters to make the transition from casting towards scanning since there is no training required and it is easy to use. Moreoverthe company is making regular updates and brings new scanner-types to market. The sensor has a user-friendly app. The app provides real-time feedback to learn easily how to calibrate and scan.  It is also very easily integrated in existing software packages in order to connect with the next step in the digital flow, which is design and scan modification. 

The Occipital Structure Sensor on an iPad 
Advanced 3D scanning  

If you believe you need more precise 3D scans, there are certainly advanced 3D scanners available. These 3D handheld scanners are targeted for high-end scanning applications in professional environments. 


Artec is the company behind the Artec Eva, a fast 3D scanner developed for professional use. This handheld 3D scanner uses white structured light technology to have a quick, textured, and accurate 3D scan. The structured light pattern is projected on the surface and the scanner detects the disruptions of that light surface. With a precision of up to 0.1 mm, the Artec Eva facilitates high scanning precision. Next to the geometry of the object, this scanner also captures the objects color.  

The Artec Eva 3D scanner

Another advanced 3D scanner is the Health Care Partner 3D Scanner from Creaform. This handheld 3D scanner has a precision of up to 0.5 mm and scans any body part. It takes 2 hours of training to start working with this tool. The Health Care Partner 3D Scanner has some automation features built-in in its software. 


3D scanning for insole customization 

Furthermore, 3D scanning can also be used to create insoles in a more efficient way. A foot presents a very different geometry when supporting body weight or not. When putting weight on your foot, you create pressure points. These pressure points determine how your custom insoles should look like. Up until now, creating custom-made insoles was an intensive process with a lot of different steps. With 3D scanning making its entry into this market, that progress is sped up and made more efficient. 


Making the switch from plaster casting and other traditional methods to 3D scanning has been proven to increase the efficiency of organizationsThe past couple of years there has been an increasing uptake by many clinical practices. It’s been resulting in a better precision of the orthoses since measurements are very important.  


To conclude, these are just a couple of the many possibilities within the 3D scanner gamma. 3D scanning is now, more than ever, accessible to everyone and can either be initiated on a low budget or scaled up to a higher level of precision and efficiency. Curious how you can implement 3D scanning? Let’s discuss your digital workflow with our experts.