Amphibian Skin is the 3D Printed Splint of the Future
AmphibianSkin is a new high-tech medical device made by 3DMedScan in Pueblo, Colorado. 3DMedScan provides 3D surface imaging services and affordable custom-fit exoskeleton support devices. AmphibianSkin is 3D printed splint made using an Airwolf HD 3D Printer. When Airwolf 3D staff heard about this amazing use of the printers, we felt compelled to reach out to 3DMedScan and learn more.
The Inspiration For AmphibianSkin
Diana Hall has a degree in chemical engineering from Colorado School of Mines, and has worked in software and engineering for many years in Fortune 500 companies. When she was younger, she took a break from work and started a mentoring program for children in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. The kids in the program would come in with traditional splints and casts that were bulky, itchy, cumbersome, smelly, and eventually filthy. The kids couldn’t even effectively disinfect their hands for a snack! One child was scratching in her cast with a coat hangar, and another ended up with permanent scarring from getting water inside his cast. As an engineer, Ms. Hall knew there were high-tech options, and wondered why they weren’t available to the general public. “I had seen 3D printed prototypes like the Cortex and Osteoid Casts and the Splint+,” said Ms. Hall, “so I developed my own, unique design based on voronoi patterning and actual amphibian skin texture (wet/dry).”
AmphibianSkin is a patent-pending 3D printed splint, with a unique clasping system designed specifically for FFF printing. Ms. Hall recently entered the the Pueblo Entrepreneurship Competition (a local Shark Tank-like event), to test her business model on venture capitalists. She won cash awards from the Economic Development Corp and one for social enterprise. Soon afterward, she opened up an office in Pueblo’s Business and Technology Center to offer her 3D printed splints to the public.
“I am continuously inspired to help my customers with a hygienic, water-safe alternative to traditional casts and splints, and to give doctors a way to offer high-tech support devices to their patients without the time, training and expense involved in 3D scanning, CAD, and printing.” says Diana.
Patients Can Immobilize Wrists and Thumbs and Still Play
So far, the majority of 3DMedScan customers are those with chronic conditions such as carpal-tunnel, wanting a device that will immobilize their wrist/thumb but still allow them to play sports, garden, swim, and do the dishes – things they couldn’t do in traditional splints. “Many fellow moms have come up to me saying how fantastic these devices would’ve been for their children needing casts, and trying to bathe/shower or keep their limb in a plastic bag” said Diana, “One elderly man asked for my brochure to take to his wife’s doctor to replace a foot cast. The elderly already have limited mobility, so bathing with a traditional foot cast or keeping padding and Velcro clean and sanitary is a major hassle.” Athletes greatly benefit from the ability to sweat and shower in AmphibianSkin devices while protecting and immobilizing. Doctors like the fact that AmphibianSkin is radiolucent (doesn’t need to be removed for x-rays), breathable and hygienic – allowing the patient to improve office efficiencies due to less casting, re-casting, and infections, and improve their patient through-put. AmphibianSkin has mainly been working on hands/wrists/forearms, but Diana believes that they could feasibly scan and fit AmphibianSkin to any body part that needs to be immobilized. Large devices would need to be printed in pieces and epoxied together, or large AmphibianSkins could be sent to a commercial 3D printing vendor for printing.
What Plans Does Diana Hall Have for Future Applications?
“3DMedScan is really a product-service hybrid, where we do the surface imaging, CAD design fit, and printing, all on-site.” Ms. Hall shared. She has developed (and continues to improve upon) a reproducible operating plan. In this bright future, she envisions micro-franchises located in every hospital and orthopedic clinics across the country. She expects to see more widespread use of LIPUS (low-intensity pulsed ultrasound) to improve bone healing time, TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) for pain management and EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) for muscle healing, as AmphibianSkin devices are readily adaptable to those technologies. “I have heard from a local prison interested in using the devices with inmates due to their fit and visibility (hard to conceal a weapon or contraband)” she added. “I also see fantastic sports applications, and I am currently working with sports professionals on patents right now for custom-fit archery and golf putting positioning devices that assist users in muscle memory training to improve their form.”
How Has AmphibianSkin Improved Lives?
Diana Hall shared a story, “Last week, a client came in with painful arthritis in her knuckle joints, and I was able to custom-design a device to immobilize her hand while leaving her tender knuckle area open to allow for any future swelling. I also made a carpal-tunnel device for a woman with a wrist injury who was headed to Hawaii this weekend for a long-awaited vacation. She was so excited to be able to relax in the sand and ocean without worrying about getting her old device’s padding and Velcro wet and sandy!” Just yesterday an orthopedic surgeon contacted Diana to fit an elderly patient who had gotten an infection under her traditional cast and needed a more breathable, hygienic option.
AmphibianSkin Is an Affordable 3D Printed Splint
AmphibianSkin support devices run about $200 each right now, depending on the size. This cost is due to the scanning and CAD design time, as each device is custom-fit to each individual body scan model and customer preferences. Additional devices (in different colors) are $100 each. Other custom-fit orthopedic devices can run $500+, and for most of us with high-deductible healthcare plans, AmphibianSkin devices are affordable out-of-pocket options. Sports devices run between $200 and $500 depending on the CAD design time required, complexity, and size.
Will Insurance Companies Cover the Cost of 3D Printed Splints Someday?
The FDA blogged an article and photo of their staff printing medical devices with ABS filament in August of 2013. Diana believes that this may be an indicator that it is a matter of time before Insurance companies begin to cover the cost of 3D printed splints. “I think that many of us as individuals can see a market need and use our personal experience and strengths to fill that need for the public though small-business outsourcing. 3DMedScan is looking for franchisees to bring AmphibianSkin devices to cities across the country.”
Airwolf 3D Printers and AmphibianSkin
Diana Hall’s uses Airwolf 3D printers in her facility in Pueblo Colorado to make the 3D printed exoskeletons. “I like Airwolf printers due to their low cost, large build volume, variety of materials, and plug-and-play capability. ” Diana says, “As my business grows and franchises are seeded, it is important to have a short learning curve and minimize maintenance and downtime for repairs. I recommend them to people new to 3D printing or those who need low-maintenance work-horse desktop printers.”
Top Notch Features Of This 3D Printed Splint
AmphibianSkin devices are unique in many ways:
(1) The patterning is designed to be lightweight and breathable while also providing the structural strength necessary for high-impact sports, and the seams of the clam-shell are curved along the pattern for an organic looking 3D printed splint.
(2) The patent-pending removable clip was designed through a vigorous, iterative R&D process for improved performance. Both the pattern and clasps were designed for use in multiple device styles and for consistent fused-filament fabrication printing.
Where Can You Get a 3D Printed Splint by 3DMedScan?
3DMedScan is offering AmphibianSkin devices by appointment only. Call 719-821-0889 to schedule a consultation. Evenings and weekend appointments are available.
301 N. Main St., Suite 113
Pueblo, CO 81006
Physicians across the country can partner with 3DMedScan to obtain a scanner so that they can position and scan their patients in, and e-mail the images to 3DMedScan to have devices designed, printed, and over-night shipped back. In addition, low-cost micro-franchise opportunities are available anywhere, including full on-site scanning, design and printing capabilities.