Researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), Scotland and the University of Newcastle, England, and Newcastle-based SME Peacocks Medical Group, have been granted a £77,000 (about US $35,000) Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare development contract to design and manufacture foot orthotics using 3D-printing technologies. Dubbed the “FootFEMan” project, the researchers will use a computational engineering tool called finite element analysis to improve the functional design of orthotic devices for individual patients. The design will then be printed layer by layer using 3D-printing techniques developed previously in the team’s European Union-funded project, A-FOOTPRINT. The new devices will then be tested in controlled clinical studies at GCU to see if foot function during walking can be improved and further lessen disabling foot symptoms.
SBRI Healthcare is a National Health Service England initiative, championed by the newly formed Academic Health Science Networks to develop innovative products and services that address unmet health needs. The funding was awarded following a call to address challenges in improving diagnosis, self-management, and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. Disabling foot and ankle conditions affect about 200 million European citizens. Over €300 million (about U.S. $355.6 million) per year is spent treating many of these people with orthotics and splints, often relying on hand-crafted manufacturing techniques.