Today amputees requiring prosthetic limbs have to put up with often uncomfortable, poorly fitting sockets. A collaboration between ProsFit and Forward AM now looks set to raise their quality of life.
The inspiration behind ProsFit is Christopher Hutchison. In 2009, the company’s Co-Founder and CTO was involved in an accident that required the amputation of both legs. In his quest to regain full mobility, Christopher soon discovered that the fitting of prosthetic limbs still relied on artisanal hand-crafting of the most critical component in the assembly – the socket. “The traditional process of creating and fitting a prosthetic leg is long, complex, and very uncomfortable for the user,” says Christopher.
Producing and fitting the limb required hours of painstaking and cost-intensive manual work by a prosthetics specialist and several visits to the clinic, meaning the whole process could take several weeks. ProsFit identified the need to find an inner-socket material that enabled a much higher level of comfort and quality of life for the wearer, and greatly accelerated the design and production process.
ProsFit had an excellent existing relationship with Sculpteo, one of their approved specialist 3D printing technology providers and which has since joined BASF group. Sculpteo had already printed ProsFit Optimal sockets in PA12 and supplied to ProsFit customers around the globe.
The digital solution by ProsFit, PandoFit, is a cloud-based CAD suite that enables prosthetic specialists to use a precise 3D scan of the amputee’s lower limb and digitally design a custom-tailored socket that provides a comfortable and secure fit of the prosthesis.
ProsFit wanted to further improve comfort through the use of new and advanced material solutions. Discussions between ProsFit and Forward AM experts quickly indicated that the Ultrasint® TPU01 and Ultrasint® TPU88A materials by Forward AM are ideal candidates for 3D printing the ProsFit Flex, a flexible inner socket, complementing the existing family of ProsFit sockets.
Ultrasint® TPU delivers outstanding vibration cushioning and maintains mechanical characteristics under repetitive load, as seen in a prosthesis, while showing no performance or visual degradation over time.
“With the PandoFit digital design and configuration system ProsFit was already able to provide a perfect socket fit. By adding a better cushioned, more flexible layer of Ultrasint® TPU we made the ProsFit Flex socket even more comfortable for the wearer”, explains Christian Reinhardt, Business Development Manager at Forward AM.
It was clear that inner sockets made with Ultrasint® TPU would be easy to integrate both in design and production, as the production technology for ProsFit Flex (Ultrasint® TPU materials) and the other ProsFit socket families (PA12) is almost identical. Rounding off this convincing argument, Ultrasint® TPU materials are highly efficient candidates for 3D printing using HP Multi Jet Fusion – the selfsame system that ProsFit was already using to manufacture its ProsFit Optimal sockets with PA12.
ProsFit Optimal has regulatory approval in the European Union and in several Asia Pacific markets, with approval applications ready for submission in new markets including the United States. Ultrasint® TPU01 by Forward AM has already achieved global regulatory approval as a biocompatible material, safe for skin contact. Thanks to the enhanced performance of inner sockets made with Ultrasint® TPU via HP Multi Jet Fusion, ProsFit also anticipates a smooth regulatory approval process and enthusiastic market acceptance of ProsFit Flex around the globe.
Overall, the desired specialized performance of ProsFit Flex was made possible through Ultrasint® TPU materials as outstanding 3D printable materials in terms of performance and ease of production system integration. By digitally integrating the process of modelling, designing, and 3D manufacturing a prosthetic socket, ProsFit has successfully reduced the time it takes to manufacture and deliver a socket from weeks to just days: The final socket can now be made and fitted in only two visits by the wearer.
Combining the design speed using its integrated digital solution, 3D printing flexibility, and outstanding end-product consistency, ProsFit has delivered a huge boost in prosthetic clinics’ productivity: They can now fit five times the number of patients in the same period and with the same resources. It’s no surprise that ProsFit is being approached by healthcare companies wanting to leverage its combined solution to open new prosthetic clinics. Forward AM’s large portfolio of advanced 3D printing materials and extensive distribution network enables ProsFit’s production of wearer-tailored sockets usig multiple, certified hubs to meet the varying levels of demand in the world’s different regions, and makes it scalable in line with the expansion rates of local 3D printer infrastructures.
In parallel to raising prosthetic patients’ quality of life, ProsFit provides prosthetic clinics with an end-to-end digital solution that massively refines, speeds up and simplifies the individual fitting process of combined outer and inner sockets. With up to a five-fold increase in the efficiency they meet their patients’ needs with, prosthetic clinics could achieve an equivalent acceleration in their own revenue streams as well as quantum jumps in their end-customers’ satisfaction and loyalty.
“We are proud to be able to contribute to ProsFit’s mission of enabling a higher quality of life for prosthetics wearers worldwide”, says François Minec, Managing Director BASF 3D Printing Solutions. “Ultrasint® TPU by Forward AM dovetails perfectly with ProsFit’s inner-socket design requirements as well as with their existing integrated production process.”
ProsFit Flex and Ultrasint® TPU by Forward AM – a leap forward for prosthetic limb users, of real benefit for prosthetic clinics, and a major stride for ProsFit towards fulfilling its vision: A World where innovation provides limb wearers a choice of affordable, reliable and desirable prosthetic products and services.
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