HP 3D printing technology and nTopology design software enable prosthetic fabrication in Guatemala



A non-profit prosthetics supplier operates nTopology design software and HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology to help amputees in northern Guatemala.

LifeNabled is based in Raleigh, North Carolina and was founded by husband and wife duo Brent and Meredith Wright to support patients in Guatemala who cannot afford prosthetic care. Over the past 15 years, LifeNabled has treated hundreds of patients, but as the traditional manufacturing techniques involved in making prostheses wreaked havoc on the team, they have now decided to embrace additive manufacturing.

Previously, LifeNabled had developed prostheses through a fully manual three-step process that would see a prosthetist mold the missing end of the amputee, use it to create a custom mold to thermoform the socket, and then fit the socket. prosthetic device to the patient before making any necessary adjustments to ensure a good, comfortable fit. After digitizing the workflow, the process now involves two members of the LifeNabled team digitizing and evaluating 35 amputees in two days, with the design and customization of each device taking place over the next two weeks before the prostheses hit. Are made with Multi Jet Fusion in a durable TPU material. LifeNabled then returns to Guatemala to deliver and install the devices.

By adopting this new digital workflow, LifeNabled claims to have been able to work more efficiently, while providing improved prosthetic devices. One improvement is the use of 3D printed foams to design flexible interior liners, which are breathable, easily customizable and washable. Previously, the sockets used traditional gel-like inner liners that cost over $ 160 and had a limited lifespan of 3-6 months in tropical Guatemala climates – which is not affordable for people living with $ 2 to $ 3 per day.

Designed with flexible lattice structures, the properties of the liners can be adjusted to be softer or more rigid depending on the physiology or preferences of the patient by controlling the design input parameters of the lattice with nTopology software. Through a semi-automated workflow, shells of varying thickness are generated using the patient’s 3D scan data mesh as input. NTopology’s mesh blocks are pressed to create the flexible interior liners that provided the level of cushioning needed, exchanging a new input mesh with another patient’s 3D scan data to repeat the process and generate a new design. With this process, LifeNabled estimates that it saves more than a day of error-prone computer processing during the design phase and produces higher quality results.

“Designing flexible custom interior linings was going to be a difficult task if we were doing it in software other than nTopology,” commented Brent Wright, Clinical Director of LifeNabled. “Once the workflow was done, all I had to do was swap the meshes. The process repeated over and over again. “

By making the parts with Multi Jet Fusion, LifeNabled saved 2-3 days of manufacturing, while the durable TPU material is considered very suitable for the jungle of Guatemala. With this new digital workflow in place – and having supported amputees in Guatemala for over 15 years now – LifeNabled’s goal is to create a global network of prosthetic suppliers for the developing world that operates the systems of prosthetics. industrial grade 3D printing. The idea is that the devices can be designed using the automated processes put in place by LifeNabled, with local doctors being trained through video calls to assess patients and fit prostheses.

“There are millions of people in the world who need prosthetics. It’s a team effort to reach them all, ”added Brent. “It’s a human story. It’s not a story about how we take advantage of humans. It’s the story of how we make people walk. I think it’s good that someone who couldn’t afford a prosthesis now has the best device in the world. Without nTopology, none of this would be possible.

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