3D printing and scanning technologies continue to push the envelope in how injuries are treated. HEALX Innovation is one such enterprise that is utilizing additive manufacturing to improve the way patients are treated. Based in Toronto, HEALX is a medical design company that focuses on immobilizing musculoskeletal injuries using 3D scanning and printing for customized manufactured wrist braces. These braces represent the first in a line of medical devices that HEALX is developing.
HEALX founder Mandad Tabrizi is a design graduate of OCAD University. Tabrizi also has a background in kinesiology and trained professionally in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He was constantly getting injured, and weeks before his thesis started, he broke his arm. This catalyzed Tabrizi into action. Due to his experience as an athlete and designer, he realized there was a need for a better way to immobilize and treat injuries not only for athletes but also for the general population. This led to the development of HEALX. Supported by OCAD U’s Incubator (Imagination Catalyst) as well as by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, HEALX is working to change the way in which injuries are treated.
The existing wrist braces and casts on the market have many problems including but not limited to bulkiness, discomfort, odor, and resulting muscle atrophy for the patient. While there have been advancements in the materials used for bracing, the method of bracing itself is an area prime for improvement. The HEALX prototypes for wrist-related injuries target immobilization points. Because they are developed based on scans of the specific patient’s injured limb, HEALX is able to design a customized bracing system that can provide the user feedback on the healing process. The brace itself is less invasive, waterproof, and enables x-rays to be taken of the injury while the patient is wearing the brace. HEALX uses 3D scan data from the injured limb and, in conjunction with their own software, uses that data to develop a customized wrist brace.
When Tabrizi founded HEALX in 2011, he initially utilized a number of 3D printing service bureaus and different printers to assess their viability for low-volume manufacturing. Eventually HEALX obtained its own printer, which allowed them to have more control in design, including the creation of customized support structures for printed parts. HEALX is currently using FDM and SLA technology for prototyping.
HEALX is collaborating with other companies to develop materials that simultaneously maintain optimal rigidity and flexibility, as current materials on the market do not have the desired combined capabilities. Tabrizi is also working with clinics and health care professionals including orthopedic surgeons, physiotherapists, and athletes on researching the effects of these 3D printed braces on patients.
A significant challenge that HEALX currently faces is determining the right material and production in a large scale. Navigating through the health care system, which currently does not have an existing infrastructure to place this type of product, is another challenge. HEALX is using a combination of different technologies including machine learning, 3D scanning, and 3D printing in the process of making customized braces, which is a very different approach for treating injuries of this type. Tabrizi is getting emails and requests from potential clients who would like to use this product immediately.
Once they begin product evaluation, HEALX will seek more funding for their operations. As prices of scanning technologies decrease it will become easier for HEALX’s product to get into the market place, into the hands of practicing health care professionals and, ultimately, to the clients who want to take advantage of this new approach in treating musculoskeletal injuries.
Do you think 3D printing will catch on for those looking to create customized braces? Tell us what you think in the HEALX 3D Printed Wrist Braces forum thread over at 3DPB.com.