High performance engineering solutions provider, KWSP, is leading a £750,000 project to streamline the production of foot orthotics, potentially resulting in a ‘while you wait’ service that could see tailored medical devices produced for patients within hours.
Funded in part by Innovate UK, the project will be led by KWSP, alongside experts from Newcastle University and advanced foot orthotics manufacturer, Podfo Ltd, who will deliver cutting-edge industry and academic insight to aid the development of this solution for clinicians.
Orthopaedic insoles, or foot orthoses, fit comfortably between the foot and shoe. They are prescribed by clinicians and designed to re-align a patient’s foot, to correct posture or to address other medical needs. Podfo Ltd introduced the world’s first 3d printed foot orthotics more than three years ago. They are designed using proprietary cutting-edge technology to deliver a highly personalised solutions.
Now, by combining the consortium’s knowledge, a toolkit will be created that allows for automatic transfer of a clinician’s prescriptive design to a 3D printer, which will work on the insole immediately. The ultimate aim of the consortium is to create a process whereby the current time to produce insoles is considerably shortened and can be managed on site by a clinician.
Commenting on the project, KWSP’s Managing Director, Kieron Salter, said: “This highly-innovative project demonstrates the significant benefits AM can deliver in the medical sector. We will tackle the project by providing new thinking on two fronts. First of all, we intend to exploit nascent technologies to significantly reduce the time it takes to produce these parts using AM, alongside reducing the overall development cost.
“Secondly, we are looking to provide a new set of tools for the clinician, allowing on-the-spot measuring with much higher accuracy, thanks to the use of Computer Aided Manufacture data. This means the process is a lot more streamlined and efficient than the current method of waiting for delivery.”
Jari Pallari, Innovations Director at Podfo Ltd added: “We are delighted to combine our expertise with other industry leaders, in order to produce a new, smarter way of creating orthotics, placing more control for a defined orthosis in the hand of the clinicians.
“The boost that patients will receive from having prescription insoles made while you wait can’t be understate. A lot of people rely on them to ensure they can walk comfortably and help reduce the strain from a broad spectrum of medical issues.”
Professor Kenny Dalgarno, Professor of Manufacturing Engineering at Newcastle University, said: "We're excited to be working with KWSP and Podfo Ltd to develop a new approach to 3D printing which will allow ‘in-clinic manufacture’ of these important medical devices."
The project kicked off in September 2017, with the goal of creating a functioning printing process for the insoles by early 2019.