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Comparing additive manufacturing technologies for customised wrist splints

Abby Megan Paterson (School of Materials, University of Manchester. Manchester, United Kingdom.)
Richard Bibb (Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom.)
R. Ian Campbell (Design School, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, United Kingdom.)
Guy Bingham (Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom.)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 20 April 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to compare four different additive manufacturing (AM) processes to assess their suitability in the context of upper extremity splinting.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper describes the design characteristics and subsequent fabrication of six different wrist splints using four different AM processes: laser sintering (LS), fused deposition modelling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA) and polyjet material jetting via Objet Connex. The suitability of each process was then compared against competing designs and processes from traditional splinting. The splints were created using a digital design workflow that combined recognised clinical best practice with design for AM principles.

Findings

Research concluded that, based on currently available technology, FDM was considered the least suitable AM process for upper extremity splinting. LS, SLA and material jetting show promise for future applications, but further research and development into AM processes, materials and splint design optimisation is required if the full potential is to be realised.

Originality/value

Unlike previous work that has applied AM processes to replicate traditional splint designs, the splints described are based on a digital design for AM workflow, incorporating novel features and physical properties not previously possible in clinical splinting. The benefits of AM for customised splint fabrication have been summarised. A range of AM processes have also been evaluated for splinting, exposing the limitations of existing technology, demonstrating novel and advantageous design features and opportunities for future research.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Dr Candice Majewski of the University of Sheffield and Dr Dominic Eggbeer and Sean Peel of the National Centre for Product Design & Development Research, Cardiff, for building the SLS and SL prototype splints respectively. Thanks to Nigel Bunt and Sarah Drage of HK Rapid Prototyping Ltd. for building the black and white Objet Connex splint; to Mark Tyrtania at LaserLines for the FDM splint; and to Phil Dixon, Loughborough University, for assistance with the building of numerous Objet Connex prototypes. The research was carried out as part of a PhD research project, funded by Loughborough University.

Citation

Paterson, A.M., Bibb, R., Campbell, R.I. and Bingham, G. (2015), "Comparing additive manufacturing technologies for customised wrist splints", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 230-243. https://doi.org/10.1108/RPJ-10-2013-0099

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited