• 13 OCT 19
    • 0

    3D Scanning & 3D Printing of Custom Made Orthotic Devices

    As we all see daily, technology is rapidly evolving and not only impacting but hopefully improving our lives. The design and manufacture of orthotic devices have not been immune to technological advancements. Over the past fifteen years, I have been watching this space with interest, and have been continually assessing my practices against alternative digital technologies as they come to market. The time for change has finally arrived!

    For the past fifteen years, I have been prescribing orthotic devices using traditional plaster cast and hand-crafted precision manufacturing methods. Through years of experience and engaging a highly skilled orthotic manufacturing lab I have been confident in prescribing and dispensing accurate and high-quality devices. The challenge has been to find a digital technology which could match the accuracy and reliably of the hand-crafted processes which I have been using and at the same time offer other benefits as well.

    I am excited to announce that Sunnybank Hills Podiatry is now using cutting edge technology in the scanning and the manufacture of your orthotic devices. Rather than taking plaster casts of your feet, which can be messy and time-consuming, I am now using a Scanning system as well as a mechanism which reliably holds your feet in a corrected position to capture a 3D image of your feet.

     

    Plaster casts

     

     

    Orthotic foot scan

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The decision to change this process has not been taken lightly. Ultimately this change had to deliver improvements, not just in the finished product but the whole way through the process. The digital scanning produces minimal waste, as compared to the water, plaster and mess produced in taking plaster casts. Also, time is saved by electronically transferring the scans and prescriptions to the lab immediately, rather than allowing time for the plaster casts to dry overnight, then package them up, take to the post office and then finally delivered to the lab approx. 2-3 days after initially taking the plaster cast.

    When it comes to the actual manufacturing of the devices, the hand-crafted process generally is a 5-day process in the lab. Plaster models of your feet are made from the casts, the models are then modified as per my prescription, the orthotic material is then heat molded to the models of your feet. The devices are then shaped, additions including pads and covers are then added, again as per my prescription. This process is very labour intensive, using industrial equipment for heating, cutting, glueing and grinding materials. There is a reasonable amount of material waste produced as well as the energy consumption used in this manufacturing process. If we look at the 3D printed devices, there is minimal material waste produced throughout the manufacturing process. The process starts with your device being modelled from my scans, using computer software and my prescription, the design is sent to the 3D printer. The printer builds the devices in an additive process, so there is virtually no waste material in this process. The devices are printed using an Eco-Friendly material called Enviro Poly. The manufacturing of 3D printed devices takes approx. 30 hours.  In addition to the print time, there is the time taken to manually add the additions such as pads and covers, depending on demands on the lab this can be another day or two, so we are estimating a lab turnaround time of approx. 4 days.

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