The use of 3D printing in medicine paves the way for the development of new and innovative applications. The main advantage offered by this technology is the possibility of offering personalized solutions, adapted to the needs of each patient. This is particularly interesting in the field of orthopedics, where we are seeing an increasing implementation of additive manufacturing and 3D scanning for the development of unique orthopedic insoles and solutions. One of the Spanish companies working in this field is Wypro. We interviewed his team to learn more about his activity and his use of 3D technologies.
3DN: Can you introduce yourself and your link with 3D technologies?
I am Dr. Pablo Marín, podiatrist specializing in biomechanics and CEO of Wypro. In 2019, with Jorge Granell, a mechanical engineer specialized in 3D technologies, we founded Wypro 3D Medical. We formed a young multidisciplinary team composed of a mechanical engineer, a biomedical engineer, a doctor, two podiatrists and an orthopedic technician, thus creating one of the first 3D design and printing units with its own technological development in the sector of orthopedics and podiatry in Spain, located on the Costa del Sol.
The creation of Wypro was born the day Jorge Granell, former national team skater, visited my office. During one of his regular checks, we noticed the need to manufacture orthopedic insoles that were precise enough to absorb all the energy of jumps and distribute the plantar pressures with variable density and on a surface as small as the skate. Both of us, due to our passion for technology and research, started to recruit the whole team and the adventure began.
3DN: What is Wypro?
Wypro 3D Medical is a Malaga-based company located in the field of biomedicine and engineering specializing in the design and manufacture of orthopedic insoles using 3D technology. We have developed our own design software based on Rhinoceros and with automated elements using Grasshopper. One of the advances we are offering to the industry is the data-driven point-based variable density system offered by plantar pressure platforms. Using finite element calculations and with only the colorimetry report offered by these platforms, our Script detects color differences and applies a specific density based on the dynamic characteristics of each user’s footprint in an automated way. In this way we obtain a specific elastic response for each user, having the ability to apply specific protocols for athletes or pathologies, offering different response possibilities (for example, greater propulsion in specific phases of walking or greater dynamic amplitude for sports such as paddle or athletics).
3DN: What is Wypro 3D Scan and what benefits does it offer?
The Wypro 3D Scan is a 3D laser scanner for the podiatry and orthopedics sector that we developed in 2017. We were in a sector where traditional methods using foam and plaster were used to obtain measurements of feet, which were over 50 years old. Today, in less than a second and a half, we can obtain a file with all the measurements and structures of the foot in the form of a 350,000 point mesh, which automatically connects to our Cloud design platform and uploads files from anywhere in the world.
The great advantage for the professional is that he can correct the foot and put it in a neutral position before the 3D scan and in a controlled load: this is a key factor, because taking a mold is not the same of the foot with the weight of the body (closer to reality) than without.
Afterwards, the engineering team can modify the scan according to the design, because for many feet, such as rigid flat feet, it is difficult to perform the arch correction technique due to their own sagging anatomy. With traditional techniques, we would have to spend hours grinding the positive plaster by polishing and by eye. And what if the plaster was lost or the patient needed an exact copy of the treatment after a few years? Thanks to our solution, we can offer exact replicas to customers all over the world.
3DN: What 3D printing method do you use for the development of the soles?
After testing several 3D printing technologies, we finally opted for selective laser sintering (SLS). This printing method allowed us to find the perfect balance between printing speed and precision. Offering 100% solid parts that meet the mechanical constraints of the foot (weight, deformation and fatigue) was one of the fundamental conditions of the choice.
Thanks to a low power laser, the material is melted, which makes it possible to obtain parts very similar to those obtained by injection molding, with a very good surface finish. We are currently working with PA12 as the main material, which gives us the perfect balance between the flexibility that the user requires for the soles to be comfortable and the rigidity necessary to perform a good correction of the biomechanics of the foot.
3DN: How do you see the future of 3D printing in this area?
3D printing, as in other fields, has been one of the most revolutionary advances in recent years. It has succeeded in reducing delivery times for insoles and, combined with personalized software for the design of foot orthotics, it achieves a micron fit close to the user’s foot. In recent years, thanks to open source printers and new developments of various materials, 3D printing at the industrial level has begun to democratize for startups and small companies that could not invest large capital in the acquisition of this type of machines for rapid prototyping and small series.
Wypro is currently in a research and development phase with several different lines. On the one hand, the development of new specific materials for the manufacture of orthopedic insoles, in collaboration with a multinational, we are developing a resin with mechanical properties between polypropylene and TPU. On the other hand, we are beginning to implement automatisms using machine learning to predict the treatments and designs of biomechanical insoles based on the pathologies presented by the patient and the order form sent by the professional, which allows reduce design time and improve delivery times, a crucial factor for medical treatments.
Biomechanical insoles have evolved a lot in recent years. Adaptation periods are minimal and the quality of life of our patients improves exponentially with the use of Wypro 3D Medical insoles, which apply design technology using finite elements, laser sintering and prediction. This makes it possible to obtain very short adaptation periods and to adapt to any type of shoe.
3D printing technology has many little-known applications such as the design of treatments for podiatry. However, we have only discovered the tip of the iceberg, 3D printing still has a long way to go and many developments that we do not yet know about. We can continue to exploit this versatile and efficient technology for production and prototyping in different fields and continue to improve people’s quality of life.
3DN: A last word for our readers?
We are a multidisciplinary and young team, we do not close our borders to expansion and new partnerships with companies and the incorporation of new talents to the team. If you think we can collaborate or that we can help you, do not hesitate to consult our website, HERE.
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*Credits of all photos: Wypro