Patients with scoliosis can soon expect greatly improved spinal corsets made with 3D printing technology instead of traditional plaster molding.
Scoliosis is the abnormal twisting or curvature of the spine. It’s affecting mostly female teenagers. Treating this condition involves a patient wearing a spinal brace to guide their spine back into alignment. As patients have to wear these corsets for 14 to 18 hours every day, every tiny bit making them more comfortable really, really helps.
Traditionally, these corsets are made from a plaster mold. A custom model is manufactured for each patient. 3D printing could be set to change this and even give better results than traditional corsets.
The 3D printing experiment called orthopedic corsets was begun in 2014 by Lelio Leoncini, an Italian doctor specializing in Physical Therapy and Physical Medicine. He joined WASPmedical team and is continuing his research using a DeltaWASP 40 70 printer. WASPmedical is part of the 3D printing development group for the World’s Advanced Saving Project or WASP for short.
Leoncini has many reasons for choosing additive manufacturing to develop the 3D printed corset. He said: “From an orthopedic and scientific point of view, the 3D printing allows to perform on scoliosis in a more efficient and effective way than the handmade production.”
Watch the short clip below to see how the front brace can move.
3D Printing’s Got Your Back
3D printed corsets cut out the need for plaster application thanks to 3D scanning and modeling. Leoncini also believes it wields better results for patients than traditional methods.
He explains: “Through the virtual project, you find out how scoliosis will develop; the production costs decrease considerably; you don’t have the problem to clear out the materials and you speed up production. A technician can hand-make a couple of corsets a day; using the 3D printing you can double the quantity and with a better quality.”
Of course, this means 3D printing can offer a faster and cheaper route for scoliosis patients to take. If the resulting print is slightly uncomfortable, it can easily be tweaked after it has been made, unlike a cumbersome plaster mold.
“It is much more anatomical, it does not annoy the patient who, consequently, can wear it for a longer time; then allocating uniformly the loads, it acts in harmonic way then, last but not least, it looks nicer,” Leoncini concludes. Looks are important (especially in a teenager’s life, as you can imaging): Traditional corsets look like body armor, whereas the 3D printed versions allow you to leave space and even make patterns. During a hot summer, this brings tremendous relief for the patients wearing these 3D printed corset.
As fantastic and even life changing as this use of 3D printing could be, there is currently no information about how soon Leoncini’s corsets could be ready for commercial use. But, hopefully soon those who suffer from this condition will have 3D printed support.
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