3D-printed custom orthosis helps disabled man get a grip
The continued rise of 3D printing ishaving a big impact on the medical world, with scientists using themanufacturing technique to create everything from spine cages to an upper jaw prosthesis for a cancer patient. Now, in Poland, it's been used tocreate an extremely specialized device – a hand-worn orthosis builtspecifically for one particular patient.
The new project focused on creating arehabilitation orthosis to help patients with mild paresis. Thewearable device needed to be light and comfortable, so as to avoiddamaging the weakened appendage to which it's attached, in this case thepatient's hand.
The project was led by WroclawUniversity of Technology's Eliza Wrobel, who was asked for help by a33 year-old man whose partially-paralyzed hand meant that he wasunable to hold dumbbells to exercise, or grip a table tennis paddleto play his favorite sport.
The researchers set about tackling theproblem by making a plaster cast of the patient's right hand, andthen using it to create a detailed 3D model. The model was then usedas a guide when using CAD software to design a mechanical solutionthat would directly assess the patient's needs.
The largest part of the device –referred to as the husk – was designed to fit closely around thewrist of the patient, while smaller parts were conceived to supportthe fingers, imitating the structure of the joints. A series of levermechanisms connect the different parts of the device, with a singlelever on the back of the hand allowing the orthosis to help the userto grip objects.
The design is made up of more than 70different parts, and was manufactured on a Zmorph hybrid 3D printer using ABS filaments of different colors. The vast majority of partswere made using the 3D printer, including the small pins used toconnect the lever system.
According to the researchers, theorthosis is strong enough for the patient to use during physicalactivities. In the future, the team hopes that such custom-made 3Dprinted rehabilitation orthosis could become widely used,significantly improving the day-to-day life of patients.