Introduction to 3D printing
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, commonly known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating 3D solid objects from a CAD file. 3D printing is extremely important and beneficial because it enables the designers and engineers to create and manufacture complex shapes and forms all while using less material than the traditional manufacturing process. All of this boils down to the fact that all types of 3D printers use additive processes by laying down successive layers of material until the 3D printed device is created rather than using subtractive manufacturing processes. Which the cutting and hollowing of pieces of metal or plastics such as Turning or Milling. 3D printing is also extremely beneficial because it enables the manufacturers to create 3D-Printable Prosthetics and devices.
3D Printing Prosthetic Devices
Below are some of the 3D printing devices used for making Prosthetic components:
- Bionico Hand: This is a 3d printed Prosthetic Hand that is made from different open sources of technology such as 3D printing. The Bionico Hand is mostly made out of ABS and contains muscle sensors and a Bluetooth bracelet.
- Youbionic: The Youbionic is a bionic hand that is made by an Italian engineer named Federico Ciccarese. Youbionic includes an Arduino device that works as a microprocessor that detects the movements of the muscle, thus allowing the wearer to make different grips.
- Mecuris prosthetic feet: This product was created and manufactured using the 3D printing technology. It is highly praised due to the fact that the patients can customize it using an online platform.
How does 3D printing Work?
3D printing in Action
The very first step in order to 3D print any product is to first create a 3D digital model using a Cad Software such as Solidworks or AutoCAD. However, the 3D digital Object can be also obtained by 3D scanning. Using a 3D scanner, it is possible to obtain a 3D model. The second step is to slice the 3D model in order to make it 3D printable. So what is slicing? Slicing is simply dividing a 3D model into hundreds or even thousands of horizontal layers using either a slicing software or the 3D printer itself. Once the 3D model is ready and sliced, the 3D printing process can begin via USB, an SD card or Wi-Fi.
Introduction to Prosthetic Sockets
what are 3D Printed Prosthetic Sockets?
Among other 3D Bio-printing applications, Prosthetic Sockets are considered to be one of the most important parts of any prosthesis. Prosthetic Sockets are supposed to properly fit the patient in order to help them walk and obtain stability and not falling. Thus, most modern Prosthetic Sockets are made out of materials that are flexible and lightweight in order to be able to easily bend and expand by the residual limb. Thanks to the advancement of our modern day technologies, Prosthetic Sockets are made and manufactured using 3D printing technology in order to have the best quality and precision. In conclusion, 3D printed Prosthetic Sockets are simply bionic Prosthesis that are made using additive manufacturing technology (3D printing).
Benefits of 3D printing Prosthetic Sockets
There are many reasons in order to 3D print Prosthetic Sockets. Below are some benefits the Additive Manufacturing bring to the table:
- Fast Production Rate: 3D printing is, in fact, the fastest and quickest way to manufacture an object, faster than injection molds and the traditional subtractive production. Faster design and prototype production means more time to iterate the prototype thus elevating the chances that the Prosthetic Socket will properly fit the patient body while eliminating and limiting error and design flaws.
- Easily Accessible: 3D Printers may be expensive to some but thanks to the fact that is accessible and available to all, in general, most manufacturing companies can afford at least one of them.
- Better Quality: 3D printing and additive manufacturing is not only available and quick but also very precise with overall better results and quality. Therefore, it is evident that creating prosthetic sockets using 3D printers is the best way to do it.
How to 3D print Prosthetic sockets
3D printing a Prosthetic Socket
The general steps of 3D printing any object are similar, and the very steps for 3d printing a prosthetic socket are to gather enough information and data, Bionics and medical devices are way more sensitive compared to other devices and require high precision. Thus as the first step and before starting the actual printing, it is vital to do some measurements and diagnosis of patients. The next step is using the data gathered to create the Digital 3D model using CAD software such as Solidworks for example. The third step is slicing the 3D model in order to make it printable using either the CAD software, a slicing software or even the 3D printer itself (if possible). The fourth step is to create a prototype of the 3D printed Prosthetic Socket and test it on the patient and see if it fits comfortably or not. During this step, it is needed to apply the necessary modifications to the 3D digital model, and retest the prototype again. The final step is to simply 3D print the final Device.
Before creating a 3D printed Prosthetic socket, there are a few things to take into consideration such as:
- The prosthetic Socket may work perfectly fine at first but after taking a lot of weight and bouncing it may break.
- The Socket may not break along layer lines
- The 3D printed Socket may fit perfectly on the patient but it may feel extremely heavy.
With the implementation of 3D printing technology in the medical field, it is safe to say that in the near future better Prosthesis and bionic devices will be released to the general public with reasonable pricing. The final goal is to offer amputees better and cheaper access to prosthetics, effectively providing them with their mobility back.