Tuesday, 23 October 2012

3D Printed Human Feet open way to new generation of orthotic devices

It is said of 3D printing that "Complexity comes for free". This refers to the ability of 3D printers to re-produce any degree of structural complexity, including fine internal structures, just as easily as when printing a far simpler model.

Imagine a human foot. Imagine all of the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.  Researches at Glasgow Caledonian University in partnership with Danish biomechanical firm Anybody Technology, have 3D printed a realistic human foot.

I believe this project illustrates a trend: specialized software (in this case musculoskeletal modeling) allowing for the development of domain-specific computer models of complex real world objects, allowing for experiments to be performed digitally (bits), or materialized for real world applications (atoms). 

The computer model of the foot can be used to test a huge range of treatments for common conditions, such as flat feet or foot drop – which prevents recovering stroke patients from moving their ankles and toes upwards.

The foot has an unprecedented level of detail. Using existing 3D printing technology, including printing in multiple materials, the foot can be realized with the required degree of flexibility in each sub-structure.

Using the analytical capabilities of the AnyBody software, orthopaedic device manufacturers, gait lab researchers, and others now have the opportunity to create a new generation of products and services based on a thorough understanding of dynamic foot biomechanics, including effects on the lower leg.

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