Project type: Development
Mentor: Alim Thawer

Inventors: Dr. Sebastian Pattinson & Cassi Henderson, Engineering
Mentor: Alim Thawer

20-33% of people suffer from musculoskeletal conditions including arthritis, drop foot, or lower back pain. In developing countries, these conditions can limit education and employment, especially for poor people, causing poverty and inequality.

Orthoses (braces) are external devices that can significantly improve quality of life in patients suffering from many musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic conditions by supporting the limbs or spine. Existing orthoses, however, suffer from 1) poor patient compliance (people don’t use them) 2) dependency (they cause muscles to atrophy preventing rehabilitation) and in developing countries 3) limited availability – access to orthoses is limited in developing countries by cost and manufacturing capability. For example, only 14% of Zambians who need an assistive device have one.

3D printing manufactures parts by depositing material layer-by-layer. It offers virtually limitless opportunities to design devices by enabling control over geometry, material composition, and processing conditions at every point in an object. This freedom may improve medical devices by allowing them to more closely mimic patients’ bodies, and by enabling local manufacturing that widens availability.

The inventor’s group uses 3D printing to make more effective and comfortable braces and think that our work could be particularly useful in developing countries. The i-Team should investigate:
1) What would be the most beneficial condition to treat using our devices. This will involve investigating what conditions can be treated using these types of devices, and what is their prevalence in different countries and regions.
2) Which countries and regions are best-suited to benefit from a locally-made 3D-printed medical device of this kind. This will require investigating the local medical system and the availability of local MakeSpaces and manufacturing capability.

By understanding both of these questions, the i-Team will be able to recommend to the inventors where they should focus to have the biggest impact.