As science advances so does manufacturing. There have been new developments in prosthetic manufacturing that are giving wounded veterans, accident victims and those born with disabilities a new chance at being able to run and walk. 3D printing has emerged as a leader in manufacturing with precision and new technology allowing doctors and surgeons to map areas that have brought prosthetic manufacturing to a new level.
3D printing is a method of manufacturing that has become increasingly popular and efficient in the last decade. This is where, using a CAD program or similar programming, a 3D image is created by a programmer and then communicated to a 3D printer which forms the image using layer by layer of material. This “printing” process takes minutes to complete, even in the most complex forms, and results in a durable item that is ready to use immediately.
Scanners are being made that are able to map the area of the body that the prosthesis will fit onto even identifying areas of soft tissue that are more susceptible to injury from a poorly fit prosthesis. Before these scanners were used, a mold had to be sculpted of the area the prosthesis would fit over, which then had to be sent to a manufacturer to measure and carefully craft a prosthetic limb which was then sent back to the patient for fittings. These fittings sometimes had to be done multiple times, which resulted in sending the prosthesis back and forth between the patient and the manufacturer multiple times, creating a huge lead time.
Now, scans can be done by a doctor in his or her office and immediately transmitted to a 3D printer which can then print the prosthesis within minutes and be tested and fitted by the patient immediately. The cost of material goes down, due to the fact that there is not just one form that can be used, but literally any form can be programmed into the 3Dprinter and the time before the patient is given a working, suitable limb, decreases tremendously with everything being created in the same space. Just as we look for the most efficient way to manufacture our goods, the medical field is quickly identifying more efficient ways to help their patients as well.
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