By Gianfranco Di Giovanni
A new custom-designed, 3D printed orthosis* has been developed which uses motors to improve recovery for patients who have undergone tendon surgery.
The exoskeletal device fits over the patient’s hand and can be manufactured cheaply, quickly and replaces other kinds of hard, inflexible splints.
The mechanism is small enough to be used at home, protects the tendon and reduces the risk of adhesion by pre-programming the range and frequency of movement.
Dr Lei Cui, a mechanical engineering researcher at Curtin University who helped develop the orthosis, said a 3D model of the patient’s hand could be created in around one minute and that could be used to develop a new custom-printed orthosis in one day.
“For one hand there are five fingers and 55 parameters… and we are programming some software that we can extract the parameters of this 3D model,” said Dr Cui.
“The cost of one finger orthosis is around $100, including the controller and the motors. The motor and controllers can then be re-used by other people.”
Australian scientists also made history earlier this month with the CSIRO’s Lab 22 assisting medical device company Anatomics to create the world’s first titanium 3D printed sternum implant for a Spanish patient.
Darren Fraser, a research scientist from CSIRO who worked on the implant, said the 3D printing technology allows for the manufacture of devices that would otherwise not be possible.
“This is the first one that has been that has been 3D printed tailored to the patient’s rib structure,” said Mr Fraser.
“We were also able to build it in one piece, no welds were required and it was very flexible.”
Mr Fraser said the speed of the process meant the model was printed almost as soon as he received it from Anatomics.
* An orthosis is the correct term for an externally applied device that is designed and fitted to the body to achieve one or more of the following goals: Control biomechanical alignment. Correct or accommodate deformity. Protect and support an injury.
Dr Cui describes some of the other novel applications for his team’s exoskeleton.