By Ms. Kristen Dalton (RDECOM)October 24, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- With the help of additive manufacturing, disabled children and Soldiers will soon be walking in customized orthotics that cost less than one-third of the price and manufacturing time of standard braces.
Through a research partnership with the University of Delaware, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division is using 3D imaging to create braces, or orthoses, for the lower limbs.
ECBC is a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command laboratory located at APG.
This project, known as Rapid Manufacture of Personalized Rehabilitation Devices, or RaMPeRD, will cut the cost of braces from $15,000 per pair to $2,000, said Kevin Wallace, Technology and Systems Integration branch chief.
"We can produce these orthotic devices in a matter of hours as opposed to weeks," Wallace said.
Currently, making orthoses takes six to eight weeks through a manual process with less precision. With additive manufacturing, or 3D imaging, an exact three-dimensional shape of a leg or ankle can be captured and used to mold a brace for a customized fit.
"The whole basis of this project is that we can create customized orthoses by taking a detailed scan of the leg," said Rick Moore, Rapid Technologies Branch chief. "Using this kind of 3D data capturing technology creates comfortable, custom-fit rehabilitative devices, is cost-effective and can be produced quickly."
With the advancements in technology, additive manufacturing technologies and 3D imaging are being applied in medical supply needs, gaming, manufacturing and archaeology.
ECBC and the University of Delaware are currently researching and developing these products for Nemours Center for Children's Health, which has hospitals and clinics in four states. Eventually, these braces will be manufactured for Soldiers wounded in combat.