Industrial Design and 3D Printing Help Teenage Stroke Victim Regain His Swimming Stroke

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Barcelona-based 3D printer manufacturer BCN3D Technologies is well known for its popular Sigma 3D printer, which was revamped and reintroduced last year as the Sigma R17. Many people have partnered with BCN3D to use the Sigma 3D printer for a variety of unique projects, such as parts for a motorcycle, a Spotify timekeeper, and an RC car.

Recently, the team collaborated with the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) to help a teenage athlete and stroke victim through the use of industrial design and 3D printing technology.

Pedro, now 16, loves sports, but suffered a stroke in 2012 that sidelined him for a while. The left ganglion basal hemorrhage paralyzed half of his body, but Pedro was able to recover a lot of his lost mobility through rehab. Unfortunately, his right hand is still affected by spasticity, a central nervous system disorder that increases muscle tone and hinders movement of the affected muscles.

The spasticity was causing Pedro to have a hard time positioning his hand correctly while swimming, so in the summer of 2016, he began a sports project at swimming club Club de Natació l’Hospitalet, which has an adapted swimming section. Coach Àlex Agut called on the UPC’s prestigious CIM center to see if they could help find a solution for Pedro, and Marc Roca and Iñigo Martínez-Ayo, who were working on their master’s degrees in Design and Engineering in Product Development, were chosen to develop an orthotic hand swimming fin, using FFF 3D printing technology.

It’s a difficult task to design a customized product – there are multiple stages involved, and some are more costly than others, especially prototyping and testing. Many traditionally manufactured prototypes take a lot of time and money to create, so some companies only make a few versions, which could negatively affect the final product. But, as we know, this is where 3D printing often comes in handy.

According to a BCN3D blog post, “Nowadays, thanks to the 3D printing technology, companies and professionals are able to carry out a more efficient product development, not just by making more prototypes in less time, but also making them with materials that have very similar properties to those that will have the commercialized product.”

3D printing technology has been used before to make a customized prosthetic hand for stroke victims with spastic muscle tone. In this use case, Roca and Martínez-Ayo used BCN3D’s Sigma 3D printer for the project, and with a €100 budget, made a total of ten functional prototypes out of different materials and in different shapes.

After a few tests, the two finally decided to use BCN3D’s Nylon filament for the fin, due to its unique chemical and mechanical properties, such as corrosion resistance, durability, and flexibility. Water soluble PVA material was used as support material for the fin in the Sigma 3D printer’s second extruder, because it can help orient the part for better mechanical properties and increases surface quality.

Roca and Martínez-Ayo were able to develop the custom orthotic hand swimming fin for Pedro in less than a month. Some of the advantages the 3D printed fin has offered Pedro include increased musculature in his upper body and an improvement in body position, which will help him achieve a better swimming stroke, as well as better movement overall. Because his position has improved, Pedro is able to swim for longer periods of time without tiring, which improves his muscle tone.

Pedro’s custom 3D printed orthotic swimming fin offers another good example of the possible benefits that using 3D printing technology can offer when developing personalized medical prototypes for a specific individual.

What do you think about this project? Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

[Images: BCN3D Technologies]

 

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