Researchers develop 3D printed foot orthotics

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers, in partnership with the University of Newcastle and Newcastle-based SME Peacocks Medical Group, have been awarded significant funding for the design and manufacture of innovative foot orthotics using 3D-printing technologies.

The project has been granted a £77,000 Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare development contract. SBRI Healthcare is an NHS England initiative, championed by the newly formed Academic Health Science Networks to develop innovative products and services that address unmet health needs.

The funding was awarded following a call to address challenges in improving diagnosis, self-management and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders.

Disabling foot and ankle conditions affect approximately 200 million European citizens. Over 300 million per annum is spent treating many of these people with orthoses and splints, often relying on hand-crafted manufacturing techniques which are slow, costly and difficult to reproduce.

With an increasingly ageing population and a growing health burden in long-term conditions, the global market for custom foot orthoses continues to grow.

The GCU team, led by Dr Gordon Hendry and Professor Jim Woodburn, will work with Peacocks Medical Group and researchers from Newcastle University on the ‘FootFEMan’ project, which will utilise a computational engineering tool called finite element analysis to improve the functional design of orthotic devices for individual patients.

The improved personalised design will then be printed layer by layer using 3D-printing techniques developed previously in the team’s award-winning EU-funded project, A-FOOTPRINT.

Dr Hendry said “We are confident that we can successfully 3D print new orthotic insole devices. This project will now enable us to improve each orthotic tailored to the individual patient according to whatever foot problem they have.

“We will test the new products in controlled clinical studies here at GCU to see if we can improve foot function during walking and further lessen disabling foot symptoms.”

Professor Woodburn added: “GCU’s collaborative partnership with Peacocks will enable them to maintain and grow their market position as the leading SME developing innovative and knowledge-based orthotic products.”

For more information, E.

ACNR 2015;14(6);17.  Online 23/01/15