Evaluation of specialised splinting software to support design for 3D printed wrist splints

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis

Lead applicant - Dr Abby Paterson

Organisation - Loughborough University

Type of grant - Translation

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £49,553

Start date - 15 August 2016

Reference - 21454

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Wrist splints are prescribed by doctors for a number of conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The aim of this project is to create and evaluate computer design software to enable virtual splint design in preparation for 3D printing.

Why is this research important?

Current wrist splints are handmade by hand therapists and occupational therapists; this process is time consuming and the resulting product is often cumbersome, unattractive, malodourous and uncomfortable. Therefore, patients don’t wear their wrist splint as often as prescribed, and this can prolong their treatment.

In order to overcome this problem, the researchers would like to implement the use of computer aided design along with 3D printing to enable custom made splints for each individual patient. The design software would use a 3D scan of the patient’s upper limb to create the personalised design.

How will the findings benefit patients?

The custom made splints would be more attractive and comfortable compared to existing designs. Additional design features will also be available, such as flexible hinges to make them easier to take off/put on, cushioned areas for sensitive joints, and additional ventilation for comfort. The improved function and fit, along with the more attractive design, will encourage the patients to wear their devices more, and therefore allow them to meet their intended treatment goals.

Along with the patient benefit, there is a cost saving benefit as once a splint is designed and saved in the software, another splint may be ordered at the click of a button, and the patient need not attend another appointment, therefore reducing waiting times in the clinic.