Hello! Today’s blog is all about 3D scanning for orthotics. The aim of these blogs is to provide some useful information for our clients and let you know what is going on in the clinic.
We have been using 3d scanning technology since opening in 2014. Today we offer a variety of scanning systems in order to best meet our clients needs. We initially started 3d scanning for a variety of reasons and this blog aims to cover some of the advantages and disadvantages of 3d scanning in orthotics.
The process of capturing the shape of your foot/leg/back etc requires careful consideration. Firstly, is the method accurate enough to make a suitable device? 3D scanning allows us to capture the shape of your anatomy in a highly accurate manner, with some systems accurate up to 0.5mm. This gives us the basis to make a custom device specifically for you.
Secondly, the process of scanning is quick, clean and less traumatic than being traditional plaster cast methods (and being cut out of the cast with a plaster saw or knife).
Furthermore, 3d scanned data capture allows for extremely repeatable devices. For instance, if you have a device made that works particularly well and you would like a spare, we can simply 3d print the same device and retain this information easily. This also allows us to track previous shapes and monitor progress throughout treatment. Plaster cast methods may not allow this level of repeatability due to issues with plaster casts drying out, becoming damaged, changes in shape and the physical issue of storing plaster casts. Also, the process of manufacturing devices from casts normally requires several skill technicians, however this may lead to some human error.
When capturing your shape we also must consider the desired level of control of the device. Your orthotist may require to hold you in a certain position in order to accurately make a device with the desired mechanical properties. This can be one of the current disadvantages of 3d scanning. If we are required to hold your limb in a certain position with force in order to achieve the desired position, occasionally hand casting, may be more appropriate. Some conditions with significant deformities or spasticity may require the limb to be forcibly held in position to capture the desired shape. Additionally, 3d scanning requires the client to remain relatively still to accurately scan.
In our experience the vast majority of cases can be suitably accommodated with 3d scanning and due to the less traumatic experience involved it tends to work well with both adults and children.
Once the shape has been captured the modification phase occurs prior manufacturing. As 3D scans result in a digital image, this can be transferred to specialist software, allowing the orthotist or technician to add specific adaptations, such as changing angles, building up areas to relieve pressure or increasing areas of pressure to provide additional control. The computer software allows this stage to be done in a highly measurable and repeatable manner, which can be easily quantified. Traditional plaster techniques involve the orthotist or technician adding or subtracting plaster with hand tools. In our opinion scanning gives a more scientific approach in comparison to the partly artisan skills involved in traditional methods. Similarly, vacuum formed thermoplastic devices involve a lot of processes, hand skills and technical knowledge, which leaves significant margin for error.
The 3D scan can also be used to allow us to manufacture 3D printed devices (see previous blog post), which further improves the design options available.
In conclusion, both 3D scanning and traditional techniques can provide high quality effective devices, however due to the multiple advantages of modern technologies now available we prefer to use 3D scanning techniques where appropriate. If you are interested in 3D scanning and would like to book a consultation please get in touch.