Software will enable clinicians to 3D-print wrist splints for arthritis sufferers

16/07/2014

Software developed at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom reportedly could enable clinicians with no computer-aided design (CAD) experience to design and 3D-print custom wrist splints for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The splints, produced at the university's additive manufacturing facilities, are described as more comfortable and attractive than conventional bulky splints that cause users to sweat, and could be less expensive, according to Dr Abby Paterson of the university's Design School.

3d-printed wrist splintThe technique improves the aesthetics and fit of the splint, according to Paterson, and allows integration of added functional features. "Thanks to our Objet Connex machine, we can integrate multiple materials in a single splint, such as rubber-like integral hinges or cushioning features," she says. "More importantly, the specialized software prototype we've developed will enable clinicians to design these splints for their patients."

To produce the splints, which provide joint protection and pain relief, a scan of the patient's arm is used to print a 3D model splint. The computer model can then be used to print as many splints as needed. They can be printed in a range of colors and materials, and with any type of fastening the patient requires, says Paterson.
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