When we talk about the accomplishments of the World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP), we usually go immediately to the advancements they have made in construction. It’s hard to see past the fact that the organization is currently involved in 3D printing an entire village, after all, but WASP’s advancements in 3D printing go far beyond construction. For instance, they’ve done amazing things in the field of medical and assistive technology. The WASPmedical group holds the same philosophy as the rest of the company – that 3D printing can and should be used to meet people’s most basic and vital needs – housing, healthcare, etc. – for very little cost.
We recently discussed the many ways that 3D printing is improving the treatment of scoliosis, and a doctor named Lelio Leoncini has significantly contributed to those improvements. Dr. Leoncini, who specializes in physical medicine and physical therapy, is the Medical Director of the Sanatrix physical therapy and rehabilitation center in the Italian province of Potenza. He began experimenting with a DeltaWASP 40 70 3D printer to create orthopedic corsets for the treatment of scoliosis, and his research has led him to recently become part of the WASPmedical team.
“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,” Dr. Leoncini said. “Through the virtual project, you find out how a 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. 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.”
According to Dr. Leoncini, the best way to treat scoliosis is a disputed topic with many schools of thought holding differing opinions about what is most effective. One thing that’s agreed upon, however, is that the traditional plaster-cast technique of creating scoliosis braces has to go.
“It is fundamental to overtake the plaster cast technique, and get a precise body-model realized with scanner – this allows to shape it in a very precise way, giving advantages not only to the operators but specially to the patients. Using this new technique I have been able to achieve a very high level of precision, for example you can make amendments and revisions of the model, thing which would be impossible using the traditional and more common technique of the plaster cast,” he explains.
Dr. Leoncini has created several different models of corset-style braces over the last few months, specialized for different degrees and types of spinal conditions.
- The Modified Cheneau Model (above) is a 3D printed variation on an older, still commonly-used type of scoliosis brace. Dr. Leoncini’s version utilizes two different types of material weaving: a “smile-shaped” weave that allows for more balanced strength distribution, and a “grasshopper” weave that allows for quicker printing and a lighter, more durable corset.
- The Exoskeletal Corset (below) is designed for serious conditions such as advanced osteoporosis with vertical collapse, or post-surgical recovery. It provides extra support in the pelvic and underarm regions to exert an anti-gravitational effect on the spinal column.
- The Chair Corset is designed for severe cases of scoliosis that require patients to remain sitting. WASPmedical created this model by using ring sensors to acquire data about the shape of the body and pelvis of each patient.
Dr. Leoncini has been particularly interested in the recently developed Shogun Superior PLA from TreeDFilaments, a stronger form of PLA that is resistant to high temperatures and can be thermo-shaped more than once. It also has characteristics similar to the polyethylene commonly used for corset-style braces. Several other new fiber materials are in development for medical applications, says Dr. Leoncini, though they still need to be thoroughly tested.
In addition to his corset models, Dr. Leoncini and WASPmedical have also designed several orthopedic insoles, using different methods to acquire data about the shape and load-bearing requirements of the foot depending on the needs of the patient. A 3D printed wrist brace, reinforced with accident-preventing fiber, has been designed by the team as well. You can learn more about Dr. Leoncini and WASPmedical’s 3D printed medical innovations here. Discuss in the WASPmedical forum at 3DPB.com.