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Low cost digital fabrication approach for thumb orthoses

Miguel Fernandez-Vicente (Instituto de Diseño y Fabricación, Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia, Spain)
Ana Escario Chust (Instituto de Diseño y Fabricación, Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia, Spain)
Andres Conejero (Instituto de Diseño y Fabricación, Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia, Spain)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 17 October 2017



The purpose of this paper is to describe a novel design workflow for the digital fabrication of custom-made orthoses (CMIO). It is intended to provide an easier process for clinical practitioners and orthotic technicians alike. It further functions to reduce the dependency of the operators’ abilities and skills.


The technical assessment covers low-cost three-dimensional (3D) scanning, free computer-aided design (CAD) software, and desktop 3D printing and acetone vapour finishing. To analyse its viability, a cost comparison was carried out between the proposed workflow and the traditional CMIO manufacture method.


The results show that the proposed workflow is a technically feasible and cost-effective solution to improve upon the traditional process of design and manufacture of custom-made static trapeziometacarpal (TMC) orthoses. Further studies are needed for ensuring a clinically feasible approach and for estimating the efficacy of the method for the recovery process in patients.

Social implications

The feasibility of the process increases the impact of the study, as the great accessibility to this type of 3D printers makes the digital fabrication method easier to be adopted by operators.


Although some research has been conducted on digital fabrication of CMIO, few studies have investigated the use of desktop 3D printing in any systematic way. This study provides a first step in the exploration of a new design workflow using low-cost digital fabrication tools combined with non-manual finishing.



Thanks to Jose and Carmen Fernández, operational directors of the CentralFab from the company EMO for their help and advice throughout this project and for transmitting the necessity to improve current orthosis. Further thanks to Dr Ian Campbell at Loughborough University and Sarel Havenga at Vaal University of Technology for their valuable help and support.


Fernandez-Vicente, M., Escario Chust, A. and Conejero, A. (2017), "Low cost digital fabrication approach for thumb orthoses", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 23 No. 6, pp. 1020-1031.



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