Utilising 3D printing techniques when providing unique assistive devices : a case study

Day, Sarah (2016) Utilising 3D printing techniques when providing unique assistive devices : a case study. In: ISPO UK MS Annual Scientific Meeting, 2016-09-30 - 2016-10-01, Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel.

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Partial hand amputations can cause limitations in some functional activities. This case study discusses how computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing techniques were utilised in providing a suitable assistive device for a partial hand amputee, to meet his specific functional needs. The patient was a 77 year old male with a passion for music, in particular the French horn, which he played socially with a group of friends. Since undergoing a left 5th finger amputation he had been unable to hold his musical instrument securely as the 5th digit of the left hand is fundamental in this action. This had caused him difficulty in playing and resulted in him giving up this recreational activity. The aim of this project was to design and fit a device which would enable him to comfortably hold the musical instrument for prolonged periods, enabling him to play again. An alginate cast of the patient’s hand was taken, and dimensions of the musical instrument were recorded. The cast was scanned using a photogrammetry technique with Autodesk 123D Catch software to finalise the scan, and 3 different assistive device designs were modelled using Autodesk Fusion 360 software. The designs were then printed using a Zmorph printer, and fitted to the patient. FEA was performed on the designs, taking into account the weight of the musical instrument and forces applied through it. Fit and function were assessed within the clinic, and following the completion of an appropriate risk assessment the patient took the devices for home trial. The patient completed a simple questionnaire after using each device which covered topics such as fitting, comfort, function and cosmesis. The 3D printed devices were also compared with a low temperature thermoplastic device and a fabric device which he had previously been supplied with. It took an average of 3 hours to design each device, although this would reduce as experience of using the software increases, and printing time averaged 5 hours. The average cost of printing each device was £13.37. Benefits of using CAD and 3D printing techniques when fabricating one-off functional devices are that the low cost and low fabrication time, alongside ease of repeatability make it economical to remake devices after small design modifications, thus improving the quality of the device being provided.