Manufacturing of Prosthetic & Orthotic Devices
The creation of prosthetic devices is a meticulous process because each design differs based on the client’s needs. Unlike prefabricated orthotic devices that are mass-produced, prosthetics require a special touch and time to meet consumer desires. Ultimately, prosthetics are designed to help amputees or disabled people return to normal function.
Since the twentieth century, there have been advancements in the manufacturing of prostheses. For example, modern plastics have proven to be more lightweight than other materials that were once used, such as wood and iron. Plastic materials offer more variety in pigments, and a sophisticated technique like 3D printing is used to make prosthetics.
Myoelectrical prosthetic limbs designed during the 1940s in West Germany are an example of an acclaimed technology because they work by transmitting electrical signals from the arm’s muscles to the limbs. The electric-powered technology relies on electrical signals to facilitate the affected limb’s movement.
In recent years, computers have been used to manufacture prosthetic limbs. CAD/CAM (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-aided Manufacturing) is a design model used to produce prosthetic arms or legs. CAD and CAM are used to create prototypes, products, and production runs for new products. CAD/CAM rely on CNC machining, a manufacturing process that uses pre-programmed code to facilitate the movement of production systems and equipment. This type of machinery regulates the functions of various manufacturing systems to cut, shape and size the prototypes used for the artificial limbs/body parts.
Using a laser to measure and fit the prosthesis is an additional service.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing involves creating a tangible product using a 3D model. In this case, the 3D model is a cast of the patient's limb or lost body part. As a result, the 3D printer requires a digital file to manufacture the product. Additive processes are used to create the 3D model. The additive process involves laying out layer upon layer of material until the object is made. The layers are viewed as a finely sliced cross-sectional image. One of the enormous benefits of 3D printing is creating many complex shapes using fewer materials than traditional manufacturing methods.
What makes us different?
Recently, prosthetic manufacturing has undergone enormous change, particularly in selecting materials used to design prostheses. Primarily, plastic is the obvious material to use because it is lightweight. Typically, parts of the limb like the feet are made of wood, rubber and urethane foam. In addition, prosthetic socks are made from soft, durable fabrics such as wool, cotton and several other raw materials.
We take pride in our prosthetic manufacturing process by producing environmentally-safe mobility devices.
Unlike prefabricated orthotic devices, prosthetic limbs are not made in-store. Therefore, measuring and casting is the first stage of the process to ensure accuracy and that the device is fitting correctly. First, we capture a digital print of the remaining limb and assess the patient’s condition. Then, a plaster cast of the stump is made.
The next stage entails creating the socket, which is a detailed process. A translucent thermoplastic is baked in the oven and then wrapped over the mould in a vacuum chamber. Afterwards, the air is released from the chamber, and as a result, the sheet collapses. Next, the sheet is used to shape the mould. The thermoplastic sheet acts as the test socket to ensure the prosthesis fits. The first test involves analysing your gait using the temporary socket. Similar to fitting a new shoe, you will be asked how the prosthesis feels and the comfort level it provides. After making minor adjustments to the thermoplastic, if necessary, we will begin creating the permanent socket. There are several ways to develop parts that make up the prosthetic limb (vacuum-forming and forcing melting plastic on the mould, a process called injecting moulding). Next, pieces are reattached using adhesive, lamination or bolts. Finally, the prosthetist’s technician assembles the prosthetic using instruments like a screwdriver or torque wrench.
It may take a while to adapt to the prosthesis; this requires time and physiotherapy. During physiotherapy, specialised exercises are prescribed to work out muscles used to move the prosthetic device. Children usually adapt to their prostheses faster because their bones are still developing.
Carbon fibre in prosthetics makes the limb lighter. Also, the shape and rigidness of the limb can be altered. Carbon fibre is an inexpensive material used in prosthetics and remains an environmentally-safe product.