Europe’s 7th Framework Nanotechnologies, Materials, and New Production Technologies Cooperation Work Program has sponsored a program titled “Ankle and Foot Orthotic Personalization via Rapid Manufacturing” and referred to as “A-FOOTPRINT.” According to the project website, A-FOOTPRINT is “a joint research and innovation initiative lead by Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, with the goal of developing novel ankle/foot and foot orthoses for common disabling conditions which are cost-effective, high-speed to market, and personalized for form and function.” The 7th Framework will provide the four-year project with €3.72 million ($5.08 million) in funding.
“Disabling foot and ankle conditions affect approximately 200 million European citizens,” stated the A-FOOTPRINT website. “Over €300 million per annum is spent treating many of these people with orthoses and splints, often relying on hand-crafted manufacturing techniques which are slow, costly, and difficult to reproduce…. The A-FOOTPRINT approach will…speed up the manufacture, delivery, and supply of personalized devices, exploiting digital scanning, computer-aided design, and rapid manufacturing. Novel devices will be developed which are cost-effective, yet personalized, to provide better fit, comfort and functional performance.” The program is also designed to work well with different healthcare-delivery models across Europe.
The main objectives of the project include (1) the development of patient information software that will enable more effective diagnosis and prescribing protocols for personalized orthoses; (2) development of computer-aided design (CAD) software linked to biomechanical/gait optimization routines that will help clinicians and technicians design custom orthoses; (3) evaluation and benchmarking of rapid manufacturing techniques that will promote the development of innovative products; and (4) integration of outcomes to produce an integrated design and manufacturing solution.