3D-printed lever gives patients freedom from orthotic

Project name | The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital

Summary | Ricoh 3D helps to improve patient’s rehabilitation by maximising Additive Manufacturing through orthotic design

The problem | For 20 years health professionals at The Orthotic Research & Locomotor Assessment Unit (ORLAU), based at The Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, had heard of patients struggling with fitting and removing their ankle-foot orthotic, either due to their medical condition or limited physical ability.

An ankle CCD (Contracture Correction Device) is used to help treat patients with muscle and soft tissue tightness around the ankle and calf muscles. Traditionally a steel loop is used to hold a gas spring in a compressed position (pictured), but patients have long found the fitting & removal of the loop tricky, particularly those with restricted movement.

The solution | ORLAU teamed up with Ricoh to bring their first 3D medical printing solution from concept to reality.

ORLAU had developed a lever-hinge mechanism which opens up the device to improve ease-of-use when putting it on, while also assisting the user in applying the stretching force. 

This was first manufactured through conventional machining and assembly but, after consultation with Ricoh, it was clear that 3D medical printing offered a better option by printing the ball joint feature in situ, removing the need for assembly.

Working with the Ricoh team to finetune the design and understand the possibilities of AM, several 3D prototypes were created quickly and at low cost before the lever was finalised. Tweaks included improvements to the ergonomics in the handle section, as well as enhanced function of the ball joint.

Ricoh’s polypropylene (PP) 3D printing product as printed using our AM S5500P Selective Laser Sintering technology, creating a lightweight finished product that is robust yet flexible.

The disconnecting lever-hinge mechanism system has been tested to over 3,000 cycles and has an estimated lifespan of more than five years.

While outperforming its outdated predecessor, the lever-hinge mechanism is also more cost effective and has all the added benefits that Additive Manufacturing offers, including all-in-one assembly and customisation.

The lever-hinge mechanism system is now in full production and helping to make life easier for patients thanks to 3D technology.

Ricoh 3D is looking forward to working with ORLAU on future healthcare innovations as they continue the AM journey.

Several 3D printed prototypes were created quickly and at low cost