3-D Printing Offers Helping Hand to People with Arthritis

Adaptive aids are expensive. Additive manufacturing, using low-cost 3-D printers, can save upwards of 94 percent for simple household items.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost a quarter of the U.S. population lives with some form of arthritis. Daily tasks — like opening drawers, turning door handles — can be difficult, so people turn to adaptive aids. Many are small pieces of plastic.

“It never ceases to amaze me what a small piece of plastic sells for,” said Joshua Pearce, the Richard Witte Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. “Anyone who needs an adaptive aid for arthritis should be 3-D printing it.”

So, Pearce had his class take a shot. Now, Pearce is a co-author and corresponding researcher on a new study that analyzes how 20 of the 3-D printed adaptive aids his class printed see huge cost savings and either meet — or improve — standards for existing products. The study was published this week in Geriatrics (DOI: 10.3390/geriatrics3040089) and is co-authored by student research assistant Nicole Gallup and orthopedic surgeon Jennifer Bow, who is also a visiting scholar at Michigan Tech.

More Pain, No Gain

Adults with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions earn less than average Americans, yet spend more on medical expenses: on average about 12 percent of the average family’s income. To boot, the adaptive aids they may need to purchase to help them pull on socks, hold toothbrushes, knit, pull zippers, cut food and many other everyday tasks are pricey.

Adaptive aids range from a cheap pop can opener for $5.99 to pill splitter for $23.75 to a phone holder for $49.99. With 3-D printing, those costs can come down to 45 cents to pop tabs, $1.27 to split pills and 79 cents plus a rubber band to hold a phone.

The 3-D printed versions are not only cheaper but customizable. Dr. Bow recommended students take a look at designing adaptive aids because the customization available from 3-D printers could help her arthritis patients and others throughout the world. Subsequently, the group Makers Making Change approached Pearce because they needed to improve some existing designs that can be shrunk, expanded and tweaked to match different hand sizes, grip strengths, color preference and task modification.

By Allison Mills | Michigan Tech

Image Credit: Allison Mills / Michigan Tech

READ MORE

Avatar
About Peter Coffaro 670 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the orthopedic industry. Recognized by MedReps.com as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager and Distributor. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.