May 6, 2020
Orthotic devices are used to provide protection and support to limbs with injuries or medical conditions. The medical industry has been using traditional manufacturing techniques to produce these devices but are now being replaced by digital manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing. Curious to know why? Continue reading this blog.
The traditional method uses plaster or fiber glass to take a negative impression of the relevant body part and fill it with plaster to create the positive molds. Heated plastic sheets are draped over the mold and then vacuum formed onto the mold, so it takes on the exact shape of the patient’s limb or area in need of the brace. The orthotic is only ready to use after a phase of multiple modifications, hand-trimming and patient fittings.
All these steps can be reduced to one efficient digital procedure, allowing the orthopedic industry to tap into a reinvented patient care. The digital flow starts with using 3D-scanners to make a digital scan of a body part. It is considered to be more accurate (by showing the actual physical anatomical shape) and cost/time-saving. This allows orthotists to manipulate their product models to fit the scan. The custom-fit digital model is translated into a digital production file, which is sent to a 3D printer for production.
The transition towards digital workflow is already taken up by many. However, many challenges are experienced, such as steep learning curves for CAD/CAM software and the wide range of digital manufacturing technologies. Additionally, it requires a high capital investment for all the stand-alone technologies. Twikit developed a software solution to tackle these challenges, called the TwikFit solution. TwikFit covers the entire process by connecting 3D-scanning to digital production and offering a design automation software.
Why is the TwikFit solution so interesting in orthopedics?
A first big advantage is the increased efficiency: the digital workflow allows specialists to work faster. The digital process reduces the number of steps needed to create an orthotic, allowing orthotists to deliver products quicker to patients. On top of the time reduction, fewer measurement and accuracy errors are made in this digital process compared to traditional manufacturing.
A second advantage is the fact that Twikit’s solution doesn’t require technical knowledge about neither digital product design (E.g. with CAD/CAM software) nor additive manufacturing. Twikit covers the full process from scanning to printing, making this an end-to-end solution.
The third benefit of this scan-to–fit solution is the fact that the end–product is manufactured with a high precision to the measurements of the patient. Making the orthotics better fit and providing optimal treatment/rehabilitation to the patient.
A fourth benefit is the possibility to add models of orthotics that are designed by the medical professionals itself to the TwikFit library. This way clinicians can refer back to previously provided orthosis and keep offering the same quality orthotics but faster, more efficiently and made with fewer errors. Twikits product developers can help with this step by creating the digital template of the product together with clinicians.
Finally, apart from the above-mentioned ‘functional’ customization, clinicians and their patients have the possibility to aesthetically customize products. Additional to the made-to-fit modifications, the patient can choose between different options in color, text font, surface finishing… without interfering with the structural requirements and characteristics of the product. Twikit believes in the importance of improving clinician satisfaction in terms of effective workflow, but also to support them in engaging directly with the patients, through the involvement within the entire (functional and aesthetical) customization flow.