HP Multi Jet Fusion technology for better health. The iOrthotics case
July 24, 2019 in Case study
By leveraging HP’s HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing technology, iOrthotics delivers superior quality, improving patient outcomes and reducing waste.
“iOrthotics produces custom orthoses for podiatrists in Australia and around the world,” said Dean Hartley, founder and general manager of iOrthotics. “Our business model is based on innovation. We are at the forefront of materials, software, hardware and design processes – with the goal of creating a better, more scalable solution for our growing list of customers.”
Founded in 2009 in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, iOrthotics develops custom orthotic devices for podiatrists. The company has embraced digital manufacturing processes and uses their capabilities to create orthotic solutions that offer unique benefits to podiatry clinics and their customers.
What objectives does the company want to achieve?
“The goals of any orthotic device are to support the foot, improve foot function and correct alignment,” says Podiatrist, Ian Goodchild. “The traditional way to make them was to use plaster casts of Paris, which is inaccurate and messy. Often the result was an almost unwearable orthosis. The industry needed a better solution.”
The traditional production method
The traditional techniques for creating an orthesis began with the making of a mould. Typically, this involved wrapping the foot of the subject in a plaster cast of Paris casts. This system was not only uncomfortable for the patients, but also inaccurate.
Once a mould was created, the orthotics were traditionally made using subtractive manufacturing techniques. The product was milled using a computer numerical control (CNC) router or by hot forming plastics. Both methods required skilled labour and a considerable amount of finishing. The process, unlike HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, was slow and required equipment, such as milling machines and grinders, which took up a lot of space and was expensive.
The use of 3D technology
“As a fast-growing company, we needed to innovate our manufacturing process to keep pace with demand,” says Mr. Hartley. “It was impractical to continue using subtractive milling, which could only produce 30 plastic devices per day. With 3D scanning and printing, we saw an opportunity to improve the quality of orthotic devices while increasing our production and reducing the waste associated with traditional methods.”
The first step in creating a digital solution was to introduce 3D scanning, eliminating the need for a Parisian mold plaster. In addition to 3D scanning, the iOrthotics team needed a way to capture the scanned data and convert it into a CAD file that could be printed in 3D. Custom software was developed to automate much of the design work for a print-ready orthosis.
Finally, the team needed a 3D printing solution that would meet the demands of strength and durability and also be cost effective. iOrthotics studied the HP Multi Jet Fusion solution and found that both the materials used and the quality of the product it could produce were superior to other methods.
At the end of 2017, iOrthotics became the first commercial customer in Australia to purchase an HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 printing solution.
Maximum results with HP Jet Fusion 3D printing
“Our digital workflow requires far fewer steps,” says Thomas Leahy, Technical Development Manager at iOrthotics. “We receive a scan from a podiatrist, load it into our own custom software, print it in 3D, clean it, paste it
and we’re done here. Traditional orthotic production often takes up to 2 weeks from start to finish. We regularly scan to ship in 3-5 days.”
Thanks to the superior productivity of the HP Jet Fusion 3D printing solution, iOrthotics has succeeded in tripling production from 30 orthotic devices per day to around 90.
Product quality has also improved significantly. With regard to materials, extensive research and tests conducted by iOrthotics with the University of Queensland have provided important empirical evidence. Orthotic devices produced by HP Multi Jet Fusion printing technology were 40-60% stronger than those produced by conventional polypropylene milling.
This technology combined with the efforts of iOrthotics has produced surprising results. With the help of HP Multi Jet Fusion printing technology, it is possible to create a stronger, lighter product that improves the lives of people with debilitating pains. At the same time, a scalable model has been created to help more people get treatment faster and less expensive.