Andiamo’s 3D Printed Orthotics
Faster production, enhanced comfort, lower costs and vastly improved patient experience and outcomes, are just some of the benefits 3D printing technology brings to orthotics. Andiamo is an organization pioneering this revolutionary approach to ensure that no child anywhere in the world must wait more than a week for a customized orthotic. Founders Naveed and Samiya Parvez understand only too well the impact that orthotics can have on quality of life. Inspired by the death of their son, their company provides orthoses that are strong, lightweight, and most importantly, uniquely designed to fit the exact contours of the patient and the child’s specific movement.
Naveed tells us, “Orthoses are crucial for disabled children and their families. We know this from experience. Our son Diamo suffered from cerebral palsy, and without orthoses, it was difficult for him to eat or even sit in his wheelchair. Even after multiple castings and fittings, the orthotics would come back with design issues, often leaving him housebound or suffering sores and bruises from the ill-fitting braces. Following Diamo’s death in 2012, we became determined to find a way for other families to avoid the suffering we experienced. We wouldn’t accept that there wasn’t a better way to provide these life-changing devices.”
How Does it Work?
“Our software creates the clinically approved design and then transmits it to the 3D printer that manufactures the orthoses from advanced lightweight materials. Instead of hand-stretching plastic over a cast, which introduces human error, the printer builds the whole orthosis to the exact dimensions we input. The orthosis is as strong and 65% lighter than traditional versions. We see greater mobility, particularly in patients who need braces for walking. Andiamo leg orthoses fit normal shoes and can be concealed discreetly under trousers.”
“Instead of creating a cast, we use 3D scanners to accurately capture the dimensions of the affected area. In just 60 seconds, we can build up a 3D image that is accurate to under a millimeter. Combined with patient data and past orthosis behavior, our software recreates the exact dimensions of the affected area along with its associated biomechanics. Instead of three to four fitting appointments, we complete this whole process in a single appointment.”
Orthotics that are Efficient and Effective
“We estimate that, on average, a traditional orthosis costs £3,500 (~€4,000) from initial consultation to patient delivery. Our process already delivers 10% cost savings, but it doesn’t stop there. Once we have scaled up our design and manufacturing capability, we estimate savings of up to 80% and delivery in only 48 hours. Time and money are often the barriers to patients having access to the care that they need. Our solution solves these challenges and opens orthotic care to all who need it, giving patients more power to improve their quality of life.”
“Access to orthoses is a global issue,” explains Naveed. “We estimate that of the one billion people living with a disability across the world, 100 million could be helped with the use of an orthotic for conditions including cerebral palsy and stroke. The support that a brace gives can relieve pain, increase mobility and reduce the need for surgery. However, less than a third of people who could benefit from an orthosis has access to them. Their costs and the availability of physicians who can specify and fit them are the major barriers to wider access.”
“In pediatric medicine, even when access to orthotics is available, the problems are worsened. Currently, a child attends three to four fitting appointments, including a casting session using gypsum, requiring them to remain completely still for up to an hour. A wait of up to six months then follows while a plastic mold is handmade around the contour of the cast. During this time, the child grows, so the resulting support is often too small when it eventually arrives.”
After getting by on grants and small amounts of sponsorship from the likes of Dell and IBM, Andiamo recently received £1.7million in funding from NCL Technology Ventures, Alfabeat Investments and WeWork, $500,000 (£367,000) of which they received for being a finalist at the WeWork Creator awards.
What’s Next for Andiamo?
When asked what’s next for Andiamo? Naveed responds, “We have already proved that the process works and that the resulting product far exceeds current orthotic experiences. We have launched Andiamo solutions to two European countries and, thanks to a Horizon 2020 grant, we are looking to expand our services throughout Europe. But we want to take the technology further, so more patients access an advanced level of care. We have been working exclusively in the pediatric field since we began, but there are many more adults whose lives could be changed by access to a better service.” Work is also underway to establish a cloud-based clinician network, giving specialists access to patient measurements and data sets for rapid iteration. This is a huge benefit of the 3D printing workflow and will streamline the production process even further.
Thanks to 3D technology, Andiamo’s founders have managed to turn their own personal tragedy into something that will contribute so much to the lives of other people. “Although I don’t have the same pain anymore,” says Naveed, “if we can reduce another family’s and make life a bit better for someone else, it’s worth it.” A report by Industry Arc estimates that the global custom-made-orthotics market is growing at 7.3% each year, and will be worth £2.7 billion by 2020.