A 3D-printed orthosis to counteract hypertonia in children with cerebral palsy, called ManiFlex, won a national James Dyson Award for design. The dynamic orthosis, developed by Mano Balliu, a student at the University of Antwerp, can be custom made with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) using multi-jet fusion 3D-printing technology. It is designed to improve the level of customization and material properties of traditional orthoses to address upper-limb spasticity in children with cerebral palsy.
Two types of orthoses are commonly prescribed for upper-limb hypertonia in children with cerebral palsy, a static orthosis that blocks the spasticity forces, which can lead to pain, or a partly dynamic orthoses that relies on expensive patented hinges along the wrist. Having identified the various shortcomings, Balliu sought to design and prototype a new functional, customizable orthotic using 3D printing.
ManiFlex is designed to be manufactured by an orthopedic technician who uploads a 3D scan of a patient’s arm and hand. The orthosis can be fully personalized according to the clinical data from the 3D scan and the patient’s input.
Balliu chose TPU as the printing material due to its unique mechanical property that allows it to be both flexible and rigid due to variations in wall thickness, according to 3D Printing Industry. TPU enabled the traditional mechanical hinges on the orthosis to be replaced with flex points, and allows for specific resistance by adjusting their thicknesses. TPU is also porous, making it suitable for skin contact.
ManiFlex allows movement in all joints, with each individual joint receiving a specific resistance to allow the patient to perform functional tasks while accommodating the patient’s spasticity.
The James Dyson Award is an international design award that seeks to “celebrate, encourage, and inspire” the next generation of design engineers.
Image courtesy of the James Dyson Awards.