The future of orthotics: a custom in-store experience

January 29, 2021
Twikit is a supporter of gender equality and a more diverse additive manufacturing industry. We are proud to say that 50% of our department heads are women. While leading in the representation of women in the space, with 27% of the entire team being female, we are honest to say that there is still room for improvement. At Twikit, we aim for diversity.   
The power of a diverse industry

When we tell you there is a gender gap in the additive manufacturing industry, we are not exaggerating. At this moment in time, there are only 13% women in 3D printing. And even fewer women-owned businesses in the industry. So, to say there is a gap is an understatement. There is a huge space that needs to be closed for a more diverse and inclusive industry. 

Because Twikit believes in the power of diverse backgrounds and its value for the additive manufacturing industry, we were honored to join the first annual female-speakers-only TIPE 3D Printing conference. Organized by Women in 3D Printing. 

Women in 3D Printing

Women in 3D Printing (WI3DP) is an organization that increases the visibility of female leaders in the additive manufacturing industry and encourages the use of 3D Printing technologies. Their mission is to have an equal divide of men and women in the sector. WI3DP is centered around the idea that we should embrace diverse backgrounds because these make the additive manufacturing industry rich and interesting. 

Organizations like WI3DP are important because of the versatileness of 3D printing technology. It spans across many disciplines and applications, making diversity essential. Because it is male-dominated, inspiring people, organizations, and events can make a difference and attract industry minorities, such as women, to join the additive manufacturing community 

TIPE 3D Printing

In the spirit of putting a spotlight on significant women in additive manufacturing, WI3DP organized the first-ever TIPE 3D Printing annual global conference on the 27th and 28th of January 2021.  

With the focus on case studies, additive manufacturing user applications, visionary talks on the future, and people shaping the industry, TIPE 3D Printing curated an inspirational all-female agenda of speakers and panelists.  

During the conference, Twikit hosted a panel on The Value of Mass Customization. Our invited speakers Lina Riano, Gabi Janssen, and Diana Hall, elaborated on the value of mass customization through their expertise and experiences together with Twikit. 

Curious about our panelists’ intriguing insights on the added value of mass customization? Read the panel summary below.  

Twikit panel: The value of Mass Customization  

Lina Riano is R&D Engineer for Additive Manufacturing at Decathlon. In collaboration with Twikit, Decathlon offers a  unique in-store customer experience through customization.  

Lina kicks off the presentation on the value of mass customization by explaining the Decathlon brand. “It is the largest sporting goods retailer, with complete control over its value chain.”  

The first mass customized product introduced at Decathlon is the custom bike handlebars available at the Decathlon DX concept store, in collaboration with Twikit. They are not mass-produced yet, but Lina tells us that is where they want to go. Decathlon wants custom sporting goods to be accessibleThat is Decathlon’s purpose, Lina says, to sustainably make the pleasure of sport accessible to everyone.  

Decathlon wants to focus on offering custom sporting goods at accessible prices but with the added value of customization. 

Lina gives us an important example of the value of a custom sports product. She says, “take, for example, someone with a disability who loves sport but is not able to ride his bike because he cannot grasp the handlebars well.” This is where customization comes in. “Imagine the customer going to the store, scanning his hand, and receiving a custom-fit handlebar just for him.” Like so, Decathlon can give this person the pleasure of doing sports, Lina explains. At Decathlon, the customer is the center of product development. 

Lina concludes her panel talk by saying that Decathlon responds to the developments in 3D printing and customization technologies, and they adapt. Decathlon will “enjoy the mass customization journey together with the customer.” 

Gabi Janssen is Business Development Manager Healthcare at DSM Additive Manufacturing (AM). She led the joint project with Twikit of creating a digital workflow for customized 3D printed thumb braces. 

Gabi Janssen is the second speaker to share her insights on the economic value of mass customization. She starts by introducing the collaboration between Twikit and DSM Additive Manufacturing. “We developed a product with high quality and reliability.” Together, Twikit and DSM AM tested the boundaries of what is possible regarding equipment, materials, and software. As a result, one complete thumb brace solution, manufactured through a digital flow. 

One of the central benefits of 3D printing and digital manufacturing is time reduction. DSM AM could reduce the orthotic production time from 4 days to even less than 9 hours, Gabi explains. The thumb brace is an easily adaptable solution that is customizable and also has the benefit of repeatability. Any brace can be printed again if required. Gabi continues by saying that including 3D printing into a production flow is a big advantage for both the development of the product and helping patients.  

One of the most important economic values of mass customization, according to Gabi, is the on-demand production aspect. You can stock fewer products and can manage them more efficiently. Again, saving time. She also considers the quality of a mass-customized orthotic a valuable benefit. Thanks to the scanning and customization software, the patient receives a comfortable device that fits perfectly.  

“If you reduce the production flow, you will reduce costs, which is very important for healthcare.”  Gabi leaves us by saying that the orthopedic market is shifting to 3D printing because of all the significant benefits of mass customization technologies. 

Diana Hall is the president and founder of ActivArmor. With Twikit, Diana is pursuing automation of their proprietary design flow and internationalizing the current ActivArmor end-to-end solution, from 3D scan to 3D print. 

ActivArmor provides the first commercially available 3D printed cast in the market. They custom design every cast according to the patient’s unique injury and lifestyle based on a body part scan, Diana explains while showing off her own ActivArmor cast.  

Diana partnered with Twikit “to offer it as a package that can be implemented into any practice anywhere and manufacture custom devices.” That is what ActivArmor is progressing towards. They provide clinics with custom orthotics while saving them the cost, space, and inventory. “It is about the end-to-end package,” Diana says.  

When talking about the economic value of mass customization, Diana highlights that economics is key in the medical industry. Managing inventory, for example, takes a lot of time and effort. By improving efficiency through on-demand production, clinics gain a huge economic benefit. Mass customization also allows for more patients to be treated in a time frame due to the 3D scanning process. “This is a revenue generator for the medical sector.”  

Diana believes that mass customization in the future will only evolve to become cheaper, faster, and better. Since there are many preconceived notions about 3D printing, as a business, you have to make the solution simple, so it is easily adopted. She continues by saying, “what Twikit does and what ActivArmor wants to incorporate: to automate as much of it as we can while maintaining customizability. 

According to Diana, when mass customization becomes a package, such as ActivArmor envisions it, it will become commercial. It is not there yet, she continues, but ActivArmor is evolving towards it, and Twikit helps them get closer to that end-to-end product solution. “The Twikit software is key.”