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Jul 15, 2014
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3D Printing unlocks wearable technology

Last months post included details on the exoskeleton part developed with 3D printed technology, which enabled a young paraplegic take the ceremonial first kick at the World Cup 2014 opening ceremony, which got us thinking about role of 3D Printing in the development of new wearable technologies with some interesting applications (or at least we thought so..) included below.

Superhuman healing

Winner of the A’Design Award in the 3D Printed Forms and Products Design category, the Osteoid Medical cast claims super human heal times (38% faster)  for broken bones. Designed by Turkish industrial designer Deniz Karasahin, the Osteoid cast, a black lightweight 3D Printed cast featuring latticework design uses an ultrasound device to speed up the healing process.

In addition to offering improved heal times the cast is filled with ventilations holes, freeing wearers from the dreaded itchiness, bulk and smell associated with traditional plaster casts. Still in the concept stages, future adaptation of the cast, could offer patients a more fashion conscious alternative.

While the cast itself may look more fashion accessory than medical cast research published in the Journal of Bone and Join Surgery supports the benefits of  low intensity pulsed ultrasound for healing bone injury. Speaking on the future viability of the Osteoid Cast, world renowned hand surgeon Dr. Michael Hausman suggested wide scale implementation in medicine will be dependent on production costs, as 3D Printing technology would be more expensive than traditional plaster and splint casts.


3D Printed Ring reads to the Blind

Following three years of research a team at MIT have developed a reading device that can be worn on the index finger. The device know as FingerReader features a mounted camera capable of translating either single lines or complete blocks of text into an audio voice in real time. The device while not yet compatible with touch screen devices can translate text across a wide range of media such as books, computers and newspapers, with haptic feedback provided to indicate that the user should move their device to continue reading or to indicate the end of a page.

With some 11.2 million people in the US alone suffering sight problems, the FingerReader is likely to have much wider implications than simply reading a restaurant menu, the device could potentially see visually impaired re-entering the working environment.

A member of the device test group, 62-year-old Jerry Berrier explained that he liked the convenience of the device, stating “any tool that we can get that gives us better access to printed material helps us to live fuller, richer, more productive lives”


Thumbs up for BMW Workers.

Using 3D Printing techniques as part of its product design and development process  for the past 25 years BMW have now turned to 3D Printing to physically augment its car-plant workers, giving them stronger, augmented thumbs. The move aims at reducing strain related injuries and improving efficiencies.

A portable 3D camera is used to capture the unique size and shape of each line workers thumb, with the scan then used to build a thumb guard made of a semi-flexible plastic hybrid material on a Selective Laser Sintering machine. With each structure perfectly fitted to the wearer’s thumb the thumb guard flexes in a closed position and locks into place when the digit is raised in a thumbs up position. When trialed in the companies Munich vehicle assembly plant very positive feedback was received from BMW workers, with the splint effectively resisting strain and spreading the load associated with pushing something like a stiff rubber plug into holes in the car chassis  – something that was causing paint to production-line workers-.

Roll out of this and other schemes to use custom 3D printed apparel to help production and prevent pain and injury are expected within BMW.

Interested in finding out more about 3D Printing and wearable technology? Visit TCT Show + Personalize where Reebok & Under Armour will be presenting for more visit TCT Show + Personalize (while there don’t forget to check out LPE at stand H14)