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

About Peter Coffaro 560 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. As a District Sales Manager for Stryker Orthopaedics, Peter was responsible for managing and directing a regional sales force to achieve sales and profit goals within the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Amp Orthopedics. In this role, Peter was responsible for planning, developing, and leading all sales and marketing initiatives. Peter is a former orthopedic distributor in the Pacific Northwest. He has also worked with DePuy Orthopaedics as well as Zimmer, and held positions in sales, sales training, and sales management. Peter has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, negotiating and P&L management. 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.