Parasthesia is an uncomfortable condition in which a person suffers from an inexplicable burning, tingling or prickling sensation on his or her skin. It can be caused by a number of different factors, and its treatability depends on the root cause. Since parasthesia is a symptom rather than a disease in itself, treatment usually consists of measures that make the patient more comfortable while the underlying cause is addressed. For one patient, easing the symptoms required that his clothes touch his skin as little as possible.
The patient was suffering from a prickling sensation on his chest, which became worse when his clothing rubbed against his skin. Several doctors tried to help his symptoms, but nothing was working until 3D printing company Laser Lines and its customer Bluefrog Design got involved.
Bluefrog Design is an industrial design consultancy based in Leicester, UK, and the team there has been using 3D scanning and 3D printing for multiple applications for quite some time. For the patient with parasthesia, the team used a 3D scanner to carefully scan the patient’s body and design a custom 3D printed support that would keep his clothes from touching his skin.
“What we produced was entirely bespoke, cost-effective and time efficient, said Chris Samwell, director of Bluefrog Design. “The result followed the contours of the patient’s body, which we couldn’t have done using any other method – we’d have ended up with a very generalised part, not much different to putting a dustbin lid on his chest.”
Instead, Bluefrog Design created a lightweight, cage-like device that was 3D printed in ABS and carefully fitted so that it only touched the less sensitive parts of the patient’s skin.
“The design is lattice-based so it’s light, and we’re saving up to 60% of the material that traditional production methods would consume,” Samwell continued. “That also gives ventilation to keep the patient cool. You have an air gap, so air can flow through it between the clothes and the body.”
We had the chance to speak with Bluefrog Design, which told us more about this particular case and its overall use of 3D printing to help customers from a variety of industries.
Will you be creating more medical devices using 3D printing and scanning?
“Bluefrog Design has been working within the medical sector for the past 10 years and is truly dedicated to delivering effective and intrinsically safe medical design solutions that really make a difference to people’s lives and health. As such, we will continue to reach out to companies associated with healthcare, offering a full range of design services. We’ll also continue to offer our experience in producing bespoke designs for clients using 3D printing and laser scanning not just in the medical market but also across a variety of high value manufacturing and FMCG industry sectors.”
What is the most significant way 3D printing has changed your business?
“There are a lot of ways that 3D printing has changed our business, from our approach to tackling design issues, becoming more efficient as a company and also opening up new business avenues resulting in greater growth for Bluefrog Design. The most obvious advantage of 3D printing is that it allows us as designers to make a variety of different concepts easily and quickly. We often combine our 3D printing equipment with our 3D scanning facilities where we can make fit for purpose, fully customisable solutions for our clients. Using these technologies in tandem allows us to break new ground in the design process.
For example, when technical specifications and manufacturing information for an item in production are unavailable – in the case of an old product, for instance – laser scanning and 3D printing allows design iterations and manufacturing information to be recorded accurately and efficiently for further development.
Having 3D printing in-house has also changed the way we approach manufacturing. Every traditional production process has its limitations but, when it comes to design, additive manufacturing has fewer than most. While the majority of manufacturing techniques can be solved by combining different methods or splitting the design into multiple parts, 3D printing has allowed us to produce concepts that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, such as objects with intricate internal structures or complex shapes that can be created from a single piece with moving parts, hinges and gears already in place.
3D printing has also enabled us to create small batches of new designs quickly, to test them and to adjust them accordingly, without wasting valuable time or money. Indeed, our parts are often used within high value engineering projects as the real manufacturing solution. As a result of this capability, we’re able to produce parts and test efficiently, which means when our client arrives at the manufacturing stage we have reduced many of the risks associated when scaling progresses to full-scale production, saving valuable time and money.”
Discuss in the Bluefrog Design forum at 3DPB.com.
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