Editor's Note - August 2019

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By Andrea Spridgen

It's been more than 20 years since I finished my master's degree and completed my thesis, which required sending away for copies of research articles and source materials through what we called interlibrary loans—a process that generally took several weeks. While the internet existed and we were using email, the thought we would access serious research online was unthinkable in my academic circles. There was skepticism about just how useful and reliable that tool was for serious information. Yet today, it's a ubiquitous part of every academician's toolbox, allowing near instantaneous access to peer-reviewed journal articles or scanned copies of obscure texts residing in foreign libraries. It's still critical to have good research skills, but the way those skills are used has changed. In the same way, we've seen aspects of technology make their way in O&P from interesting, but not practical ideas, to mainstream tools.


"From Disruptor to Partner: 3D-printing Companies Take Their Place in the O&P Market" addresses one area of technology that has seen dramatic progression since The O&P EDGE  first began covering it in 2010. At that point, time, cost, and durability of materials suitable for O&P relegated its application to limited prototyping. But as this article points out, advances in 3D printers and materials have allowed partnerships to flourish between clinics, 3D printer manufacturers, and central fabrication businesses to use the technology to produce functional upper-limb prostheses, foot orthotics, sockets, and cranial remolding helmets.


As fabrication techniques change and new componentry with advanced technology is introduced, technicians have also had to incorporate these new tools into their toolbox. Technical education programs have added courses in CAD/CAM, introduction to projects with electronic componentry, and additive manufacturing techniques. However, "Hand Skills and Technician Education" also reinforces the old adage "the more things change, the more they stay the same," in that, like my research example, techs still need all the skills they always have—they just may use them with different tools.


I hope you enjoy this issue dedicated to the fabrication aspect of the O&P profession.


Finally, I'm excited to announce that my colleagues and I at The O&P EDGE  have been honored with Gold, Silver, and top 5 single best issue TABBIE awards from Trade, Association and Business Publications International. We work hard to produce relevant topics in an interesting and attractive package for our readers, so we're especially proud for our efforts to be recognized outside of the O&P profession.


Happy reading.