3D-printed Socket Maintains Strength, Allows Modification

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The 3D-printed prosthesis is made from composite polyamide materials.

Photograph courtesy of BASF.

BASF, an international chemical company, and Essentium, a materials and production company, have developed a custom 3D-printed thermoplastic carbon fiber prosthetic socket that is lightweight, stronger, and more flexible than traditional carbon fiber sockets, according to a BASF press release. The socket, produced by TriFusion Devices, an Essentium subsidiary, can be completed in less than 24 hours.

The companies worked with Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics, Detroit, Michigan, as a validation partner. Chris Casteel, MSOP, BOCO, owner of Anew Life, tested the sockets with patients and provided feedback on improvements to the process and material selection. According to Casteel, patients provided "extremely positive feedback."

The definitive socket is made with polyamide, a thermoplastic material that enables adjustments in increments as small as 2-3mm without weakening, and is reinforced with short carbon fiber.

For patient safety and satisfaction, BASF and Essentium followed the standards outlined in the U. S. Food and Drug Administration's 2017 guidelines for additive manufacturing. Each of the 30 steps of the manufacturing process is documented, and the devices are hand inspected before being shipped to clinicians.

The companies are also pursuing the production of a multimaterial 3D-printed prosthesis with rigid and flexible thermoplastic polyurethane elements. The hard-soft socket would allow clinicians to implement soft material into the design for increased comfort on sensitive areas.