In 2005, Creaform (Quebec, Canada) launched the first Handyscan 3D scanner, based on an innovative technology using triangulation as a way to position itself in space, and with respect to the part to be scanned. It quickly became apparent that this technology held tremendous possibilities in the medical industry. Creaform decided to further development in this field through original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreements. Accordingly, the company developed an application programming interface to increase the adaptability of its data acquisition software and ultimately ensure reliable, clear, and seamless translation and communication with OEM partners’ proprietary software.

Fig. 1 - TechMed 3D’s 3D laser scanning proprietary software features a less than 1-minute data acquisition process, which makes for half the time required for manual measurement or casting.

Initially, two OEMs (TechMed 3D and Willow Wood) were driven by the same goal: to develop an affordable, easy-to-use, and reliable digital imaging and measurement acquisition system for the human body that would address and resolve several issues faced by technicians and clinic owners in the orthopedics and prosthetics (O&P) industry. These issues include the high cost of alterations due to inaccurate measurements, high manufacturing costs, and the need for constant, high-quality readings.

It is very interesting to note that while both companies based their R&D and marketing efforts on the same 3D laser scanning technology, they came up with rather different tools and ways of doing things. By developing affordable, easy-to-use and reliable 3D anatomical measurement systems, both TechMed 3D and Willow Wood succeeded in democratizing Creaform’s 3D scanning technology to help O&P professionals and patients jump into the 21st century.

The TechMed 3D Solution – Revolutionizing O&P Practices

TechMed 3D (Quebec, Canada) designs and delivers turnkey 3D data acquisition systems for the digital measurements of human body parts, particularly in the field of orthopedics and the tailoring of personal equipment (shoes, boots, helmets).

Despite the technological breakthroughs of the last decade, some O&P key players are still reluctant to switch to 3D data acquisition technology. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that existing CAD/CAM solutions’ poor quality-to-price ratio and high complexity of use failed at convincing them otherwise. This explains why 75 percent of the market is still choosing plaster over 3D non-contact scanning technology, even though plaster does not withstand comparison with modern, 3D data acquisition technology. Plaster is cheap, but it is also messy and requires the patient to sit and wait for it to dry. It also involves manual reworking, requires large storage capacity, and offers measurement results that may vary greatly depending on the technician who did the casting.

TechMed 3D’s imprints acquisition system is comprised of a scanner (manufactured by Creaform) powered by a user-friendly proprietary software developed expressly for workers from the orthopedic, prosthetic, and pedorthic industries and completed by a portable scanning module, providing these specialized markets with an easy-to-use, accurate, and quick technology to measure extremities of the human body (head, elbow to fingers, thigh to toes).

The company’s 3D data acquisition software features capabilities expressly tailored to the O&P industry. It offers an extremely short data acquisition process (under one minute) that makes for half the time required for manual measurement or casting, and rework time cut-down has been estimated to 10–15%. The software also offers automated generation of standardized measurements, automatic reporting, and data monitoring features.

Ultimately, the goal was to part from the CAD/CAM industry’s old ways of doing things, and innovate by developing a system that would transcend major issues faced by existing technologies:

  • Cost: Existing solutions can cost over $100,000, which only high-volume clinics can sustain. The TechMed 3D’s solution costs about 75% less than that.
  • Complexity: For a clinician who has spent his entire career working with plaster, the move to digital may seem very complicated. TechMed 3D’s solution offers touchscreen commands.
  • Barrier to entry: Plaster is cheap and has been used since the early 1900s. It is a challenge to change how O&P people work and think.

TechMed 3D aims to educate people about its technology with this system, which enables the user to work step by step. Because it is an open system, users are not confined to particular formats or technologies. They can also select which partners to work with for the modification and manufacturing phases.

Crafting a Cranial Orthosis

Fig. 2 - Willow Wood developed a pain-free, non-contact, 5-minute 3D measurement acquisition process based on Creaform’s 3D eye-safe laser scanning technology adapted to its little patients.

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched the “Back to Sleep” program, which encouraged parents to have their babies sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This program was extremely effective and reduced the worldwide SIDS rate by 40%, but had the negative impact of drastically increasing the number of positional deformational plagiocephaly cases. Moderate to severe cases may lead to compromised brain development and facial asymmetry, and therefore require treatment, which involves a cranial orthosis in the form of a remolding helmet made out of soft foam.

Willow Wood (Mt. Sterling, OH), a company that provides quality prosthetic products for amputees, sought to create a remolding helmet that offered a snug fit to the “healthy” part of the skull while allowing some space for the flattened part to grow and recover some of its natural curvature. It needed to be worn over variable periods of time, depending on the deformation’s severity.

No two cases are alike, and each baby must have a helmet tailored to its skull. The main difficulty in getting these measurements lies in the fact that the patient is a wriggling, often-times uncooperative infant. In these cases, the traditional 30-minute casting process involving plaster splints being placed on the skull to dry is particularly inconvenient. Willow Wood looked into this issue and developed a pain-free, contactless, 5-minute 3D measurement acquisition process based on Creaform’s 3D eye-safe laser scanning technology.

Willow Wood’s process is comprised of a few simple steps. First, the technician scans the infant’s head with the scanner (manufactured by Creaform). During that phase, the baby sits on the parent’s lap or in a special support, and can move freely without disrupting the process. The second part involves modifying the file generated using Willow Wood’s proprietary O&P-focused modification software tools, such as “Adjust Pad,” “Copy Left/Right,” and “Trim Line.” Once the file of the captured shape has been optimized, Willow Wood sends it to an FDA-approved manufacturer partner, which has the expertise and equipment to fabricate the corrective helmet. The files can also be archived and used as follow-up data to monitor progress and take additional corrective actions if necessary.

This article was written by François Leclerc, Eng., Medical Business Development Manager for Creaform, Quebec, Canada. For more information, Click Here