How to Achieve Repeatable Success with Laminations

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By Ronnie N. Graves, RTP, LPO, BOCO

Being able to duplicate exactly what the practitioner or customer wants has always been difficult at best. Almost all technicians have a favorite way of laminating every type of device you can think of, but can they always remember what they did eight months ago? The answer is almost always "no." Very few of us ever think about keeping a record of what we do in fabrication. However, keeping good records helps show good manufacturing processes for future reference.

When I was in central fabrication, I tried to give practitioners four to six choices of laminations. I labeled them and sent them out to the central fab customer. I usually only had to send them one time, because the customer could then see the different results from my lay-ups.

When orders came in for sockets, I asked the practitioners which socket they wanted. They could easily decide at that point, because they had already seen sockets similar to what they wanted. After receiving the socket type, I wrote it on my order form. This way, I kept a record of what was ordered and who ordered it. If the socket failed, I could at least demonstrate that it was not my choice of socket thickness or lay-up, but that the practitioner had made that decision. I also used that information to demonstrate why someone should not use a lay-up that was too light.

More Tips for Repeatable Success

  • You also need to ensure that your vacuum system is steady and consistent every time. If you have leaks, fix them. Don't wait to be told to make the repair. If you need a dependable vacuum source, you have to make sure it works.
  • You should always be in the habit of laminating your sockets at the same level each time. Your finished lamination should also be at the same level each time. If you are changing your inches of mercury, you can never repeat anything you have done in the past. Write down how many inches of mercury you use for different laminations. Check to see that all of the technicians are using the same amount. If you have techs that don't agree, find out which sockets the boss likes best (without the boss knowing who made it), and use that person's techniques.
  • How many of you don't take the time to measure your quantities with a scale? I cannot believe the number of techs who think their eye is better or more accurate than a gram scale. By not measuring properly, you cannot know you are using the correct amounts that are needed.
  • You should also be measuring your leftover resin in the PVA bag and the cup to see how much you have wasted. This technique will help to eliminate waste in the lab. The manufacturers of these products have spent a lot of time figuring out how their resin will work with a specified amount of hardener, and they even give you a varying amount to play with. If you follow the set amounts, you should be able to get dependable results every time. When you use the right amount and something goes wrong, now you have something to talk to the resin supplier about.
  • Check each resin's shelf life. Ask the seller or manufacturer how long it will retain its qualities. Ask the company if the resin can be recycled if it falls out of the date range. Very few can be.
  • Those of you who laminate with silicone know full well how temperamental silicones can be. You have to keep your work area clean and avoid specific types of gloves. The powder on the glove can adversely affect the silicone. You are also limited on the types of pigment and the amount you can put in.


Write It Down!

When you find a technique that works, write it down. This is the only way that you can repeat it, or if something happens to you, it may be the only way for someone else to be able to repeat it. It is also the only true way to see if what you do works long-term.  When you make a socket for a patient, you should write down the socket type, resin used, lay-up, and technician that made it. If you think of this as a way to prevent future problems, you will not mind doing it.

Ronnie Graves, CO, BOCPO, RTP, has been involved in the O&P industry for 26 years. He received his technician training from the late Ken Reeser, LP, in Orlando, Florida, and later became a Florida-licensed prosthetist and orthotist. He chaired the first Technician Education Committee for the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) and was the first chairman for the Orthotic & Prosthetic Technological Association (OPTA). He also is the logistical manager for the Humane Society of the United States Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) in Florida. He can be contacted at e-mail: prsronnie@earthlink.net