Just over a year ago, the TechnoSpark venture-building company in Troitsk invited the Zdravprint startup which develops orthoses, devices for securing fractured limbs, to join them. The orthosis “Zdravprint” is printed on a 3D printer from eco-friendly plastic, and its design allows the skin to breathe and its form is designed to fit each individual patient. In spring, the company signed a partnership agreement with one of the city’s private clinics, and the first patient from Troitsky has already benefited from the orthosis.
“The orthosis is made on a 3D printer from biodegradable plastic,” one of the employees at Zdravprint, Alexander Kosarev, explains. The Zdravprint startup entered the picture in 2014 in Moscow. Alexander is a 3D modeling specialist, he is one of the four members of his team. “The orthosis is printed as a semi-finished article, a flat cut-out shape.” he continues. “A doctor warms it up with a conventional household hair dryer, the material becomes pliable at 60 degrees and hardens again when it is molded on the patient’s limb.” The orthosis is porous, it allows for the flow of air, moisture and heat, it is possible to wash with it on, and even swim in the pool. It is made from polylactic acid, a material that is suitable for any 3D printer operating on today’s most common technology, layer-by-layer fused deposition modeling (FDM).
The idea to replace plaster, which is as old as the hills, with an individualized product made of plastic, is by no means a new one. There are several companies around the world offering expensive orthoses that necessitate individual three-dimensional scanning. There is a second option, where a doctor cuts the orthosis from a sheet of plastic himself with a pair of scissors, warms it up in the bathroom and puts it on an arm or a leg… Zdravprint technology combines the precision of the first method and the availability of the second.
“Such orthoses are not produced anywhere else in the world,” says Kosarev. “They do not require any three-dimensional scanning, just put your hand on an A4 sheet of paper, take a photograph, and we calculate the size ourselves. There are ready-made 3D models to fix fingers, knuckles and so forth, a patient and a doctor choose the right one. Thus, our technology allows you to create completely customized orthoses for the price of those that are non-customized”. In any case, immediately after the injury, a doctor uses a plaster cast, and a week later following the second x-ray, it is possible to replace it with an orthosis. It must be applied in a clinic.
Orthoses help cancer patients recovering from surgery, patients with cerebral palsy… “A girl suffers from very strong muscular spasms, nerve impulses compress her fingers, and it is necessary to fix her hand for at least a few hours a day so that the muscles can relax,” Alexander says, showing one of the photographs. “Here, when the patient had the orthosis put on, she could barely unbend her fingers, and when the procedure was completed, her hand lay in the orthosis in a natural position”.
But the main use for ortheses is of course for fractures, not only for fractured arms but also for legs. And thanks to Zdravprint taking up residency at TechnoSpark, the high technology the nanocenter is investing in has become accessible for residents of Troitsk.