3D printing is a versatile form of additive manufacturing that is gaining widespread acceptance in various fields. Currently, the technology is increasingly being used in plastic surgery and in the creation of orthopedic medical devices and equipment.
3D printing is being used to create medical devices due to the consistency of production and its time-saving characteristic. For example, the Italian company CREA3D and orthopedist Dr. Valenti have collaborated and used 3D printing and other digital technologies to create custom insoles and other orthopedic products. The result has been an increase in the effectiveness of adjunctive treatments.
Dr. Mirko Valenti has used 3D printing technology to treat clinical cases of tibialis posterior tenosynovitis with conservative corrective therapy. The introduction of technology into the treatment process was both innovative and highly effective.
Valenti purchased a Raise3D E2 3D printer equipped with IDEX technology (independent dual extruder) for his office. Raise3D E2 is ideal for printing a pair of orthopedic insoles.
Traditional Pre-3D Printing of Insoles
Each pair of orthopedic insoles is customized for a particular patient because everyone has their own needs. The strength properties of the different parts of the insoles must be adjusted according to a patient’s characteristics.
Individual customization proved to be a problem in traditional manufacturing process. In the traditional process, you have to use a CNC machine to mill a piece of material to obtain the desired shape. To ensure the accuracy of the anatomical region in the insole, a high-precision CNC machine is required.
The process is time-consuming, complex and comes with high labor costs. Moreover, the production process creates a lot of garbage and dust, pollutes the working environment, and endangers the health of workers.
3D Printing Orthopedic Insoles
Having abandoned traditional CAD-CAM machines, Dr. Mirko Valenti began to print orthopedic insoles with PP filament. The durability and strength of the material provides excellent support for the patient’s foot.
Printing a pair of orthopedic insoles with PP thread is a simple process.
First, the doctor scans the patient’s leg. He then uses a CAD program to create a model of orthopedic insoles with compensating supports for the affected areas. This ensures that the arch of the foot is supported and the heel is stable.
Valenti then loads the model file into ideaMaker’s 3D printing preparation software to optimize technical properties such as shape reshaping and fill percentage. For example, honeycomb filling can make the structure rigid. The filling allows different results in terms of deformability and softness of the orthosis.
Dr.Valenti then uploads the model file to the E2 3D printer , which prints out a pair of insoles at the same time. Finally, he wraps the sole with EVA or other special materials suitable for skin contact.
The entire manufacturing process, including scanning, design and manufacturing, takes less than 24 hours.
Advantages of 3D Printed Orthopedic Insoles
3D printing simplifies the traditional manufacturing process, shortens the production cycle and reduces the time it takes to receive the product. A 3D printed model can be produced in a single process without the use of any other additional apparatus and tools. It takes only 2-3 hours to print a pair of orthopedic insoles on the Raise3D E2 printer. Moreover, the whole process is performed automatically without the need for manual control.
Making insoles without 3D printing requires a lot of hand tools and time to get an accurate model according to anatomical features. 3D printing makes it possible to successfully carry out individual orthopedic treatment.
3D Printing is Efficient
3D printing is a more efficient process for making insoles. Users can develop models and mass produce them at the same time.
With 3D printing, there is no need for a repetitive design, verification and modification process. The technology makes it possible to produce small batches on demand. The model can be obtained immediately.
Sealed 3D Printers are Environmentally Clean
Closed-circuit 3D printers, like the Raise3D, filter out any vapors released when the material heats up during 3D printing. This reduces the need for large workshops or separate production rooms.
As a result, 3D printing provides a cleaner, healthier environment. You can do mass production right in the office.
The Right 3D Printing Software
Dr.Valenti uses polypropylene as the 3D printing material to provide support and flexibility for the various adjusting elements of the insole. Each type of polymer needs different settings. The right software can make it much easier to find your settings.
For example, ideaMaker is a file-to-print preparation software that has many built-in presets for a variety of polymers (including polypropylene). With this 3D printing slicer, you can adjust parameters of the internal structure such as filling density, filling angle, and others to control the strength properties.
Using Raise3D Printers for Orthopedic Insoles
Dr. Valenti chose the Raise3D E2 desktop 3D printer for the production of orthopedic insoles. As a professional mid-size desktop printer, the E2 meets all your print quality requirements, and is perfect both for home use and small studios.
The IDEX E2 technology allows users to print a pair of orthopedic insoles at once, thereby maximizing production efficiency. The ideaMaker has parameter settings and various templates, which allow you to customize and change the technical properties of the insole. During the production process, you can use the ideaMaker 3D printing software to reinforce the inner structure of the insole.
The E2 desktop 3D printer supports a variety of plastics, including polypropylene.
3D Printing Will Benefit More Medical Areas
3D printing provides better customization, precision, aesthetic appearance and lightweight structure. It also significantly reduces the manufacturing process, lead times and workmanship. Dr. Mirko Valenti has used 3D printing in the manufacture of plantar orthoses. He used Raise3D printers and software for a full production cycle and achieved high efficiency thanks to the Raise3D ecosystem.