3D printers can make reliable devices for the orthopedic sector – Innovation Origins

Just like artisans who work with wood or iron, orthopedists are also skilled craftspeople. They also share some of the tools with the master artists who sculpt stone and wood. However, the focus of their work has always been to help people restore functionality or correct bodily deformities. Technological advances can also make a significant difference in this sector. 3D printers are a valuable tool for accomplishing as much accuracy as possible.

Michelotti Orthopedic Solutions is taking this step. Founded in 1916 in Lucca, Italy by Ferruccio Michelotti, the shop started creating prosthetics for World War I veterans. 106 years later, it’s now up to the fifth generation of the family to keep the business going with more than 15 clinics in Italy. Innovation is the common thread here. 

The Italian orthopedic company is using INDUSTRIO 3D printers to create orthopedic insoles. The Dutch additive manufacturing company – based in Brainport Eindhoven – has developed a concept of mini-factories for this purpose. In short, the goal is to create a platform that does everything. From the design to the final product, no more than one machine is involved, with a factory six meters long – where the largest printers are concerned. 

Adapting this kind of technology for use on the human body is anything but easy. “Over the years, we have become familiar with several technologies that could be used for orthopedic purposes. However, most of them lacked the adaptability we needed. INDUSTRIO is providing us with a solution that enables a reliable, bespoke and high-grade solutions to be printed quickly,” explains Lorenzo Michelotti, orthopedist, and manager of the family’s business.

Lorenzo Michelotti

Manager of Michelotti Orthopedic Solutions

He has over 30 years of experience in the orthopedic sector.

Bridging the gap 

The so-called CAD-CAM technology is the main digital approach being used today. Orthopedists first get the patients’ footprint in a digital form, then shape a block of material with a milling machine. Besides being old-fashioned, this technology doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best accuracy – pieces often need further refinement by hand with a file. What’s more, a lot of the material is wasted. As a result, the majority of orthopedists still prefer the manual way; CAD-CAM systems are not that user-friendly either. In fact, they end up making the devices by hand right from the start.

Two steps in the conventional process for making insoles: footprint capturing with foam and casting chalk to create the device

It is for these reasons that INDUSTRIO aims to bridge the gap between hand-made and digital. “There are many technologies that can be used to capture a footprint. Podiatrists, chiropodists and orthopedists see that their patient is not walking properly and get that data in a digital form. But they often wind up making insoles by hand,” explains Marco Cavallaro, co-founder and head of R&D at INDUSTRIO. 

Advantages for patients

Thanks to INDUSTRIO’s technology, orthopedists are provided with a compact solution that gives them control over the process. In collaboration with DESIGNO, the company has developed a user-friendly piece of software that helps with the customization of prints. The entire process is done in a compact device in just a few minutes. The machine extrudes a thermoplastic material, using only the exact amount of fibre that is needed. The compactness of the printer is one …….

Source: https://innovationorigins.com/en/3d-printers-can-make-reliable-devices-for-the-orthopedic-sector/

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