Exploring Fabrication Options

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By Andrea Spridgen
Andrea Spridgen

Because many O&P interventions require custom solutions, it is imperative that technicians and fabrication labs are able to explore the variety of techniques, materials, and new technologies that are available to produce those devices efficiently and in a way that provides the best patient experience possible. In this issue of The O&P EDGE, we explore this topic.

In "CAD/CAM: Time to Join the Digital Age," Chris Handford shares the experience of experts who have incorporated the technology into their patient care and fabrication operations. They report that using the digital scanning process for capturing patient measurements, rather than casting, has removed discomfort for patients, especially those with traumatic wounds or skin sensitivities, and has made the procedure less stressful, especially for pediatric patients. In addition, using CAD/CAM technology to not only capture the image but then to make clinical modifications has allowed those experts to increase their productivity and their bottom lines; it has also led to happier patients and referral sources.

The flexibility of combining high-temperature vulcanized silicone and room-temperature vulcanized silicone to create more comfortable, yet durable upper-limb prostheses is explored in "Building a Better Arm: Design and Fabrication in Upper-limb Prosthetics." This article also demonstrates how 3D printing was used by an established O&P practice for rapid proof of concept and prototyping of partial hand and activity-specific components. In addition, this article touches on the use of additive manufacturing techniques using materials such as titanium to create custom activity-specific components.

Finally, Phil Stevens, MEd, CPO, FAAOP, shares a case study with us in "All Hands, Hooks, and Fiberglass on Deck." Stevens outlines a variety of fabrication materials, methods, and component options that were used to provide multiple prosthetic solutions for a man with atypical bilateral partial hand amputations. Although the patient traveled to the United States to be fit, he lives in a remote region of Africa, and the devices he received will have to function in that environment and be serviced and repaired in-country.

As the complexion of O&P patients continues to evolve, with unique challenges facing clinicians every day, so too must the strategies the profession uses to create the devices these patients need. And, as business pressures continue to strain resources, practices have to find ways to produce those devices in the most efficient manner possible. We look to these advances in fabrication techniques, materials, and technologies to assist in meeting those needs.

Happy reading.