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Jules Revais
Jules Revais
Innovation Manager and R&D Coordinator at Ottobock.care France

People of 3D Printing: Jules Revais

Who is Jules?

Jules Revais is Innovation Team Manager and R&D Project Coordinator at Ottobock.care in France, a company specializing in orthopedic manufacturing. He has a background in 3D printing, and has been involved in the implementation of digital manufacturing processes for the production of orthotics and prosthetics.

Can you tell us how 3D printing is used in the manufacturing of orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) at your company?

Today, 3D Printing is mainly used in 3 types of applications at Ottobock.care:

  • For the direct production of orthopedic devices. For example, since 2018 we have been manufacturing, on site, helmets dedicated to the correction of plagiocephaly (a condition characterized by an asymmetrical deformity of an infant’s skull, often caused by constant pressure or prolonged position on part of the baby’s head). These products were developed internally and are marketed in Europe and the USA.
photo-othese-cranienne-ottobock-care
Plagiocephaly correction helmet, source: Ottobock

  • We also mass-produce certain protective tools: for example, certain parts in flexible materials can be used as protective covers for knees carrying micro-processors. These are mass-produced TPU parts (Ultrasint® TPU01).
protection genou ottobock
Knee cover, source: Ottobock
  • Of course, we also use additive manufacturing for prototyping. We use this technology to support innovation in new equipment concepts, and we have our own in-house machines for rapid production.

What are the specific advantages of using 3D printing over traditional methods of making orthotics and prosthetics?

Despite the immense potential of 3D printing, it represents only a small proportion of parts manufactured in the O&P market (around 5% of parts manufactured in France).

For some of our applications, such as plagiocephaly helmets, additive manufacturing offers many advantages:

  • This technology made it possible to improve product precision, manufacture thinner thicknesses (and thus reduce product weight) and customize the products according to the patient’s requirements.
  • Finally, on this particular helmet, we were able to integrate a hinge directly into the product design, which enabled us to achieve better integration into the product and guarantee the quality of the fitting.
  • From an environmental point of view, it would also appear that additive processes generate less waste than traditional processes, which can sometimes require the manufacture of single-use plaster or plastic molds.

How do you guarantee the quality of products manufactured using 3D printing? What tests and controls are carried out?

We carry out various tests and checks to assure our patients that the product delivered is of the highest quality:

1. First, we validate the mechanical and dimensional performance of the manufacturing machine.

2. Secondly, we perform validation by means of visual inspection, target thickness measurement and 3D scan.

3. Finally, we carry out fatigue and ageing tests, both static and dynamic, to ensure the longevity of our products, some of which are used on patients for up to 5-6 years.

How does your team work with healthcare professionals to design customized orthotics and prosthetics tailored to the patients' specific needs?

We have several hundred orthoprosthetists in our teams, who see patients on a regular basis. Some of these prosthetists work in rehabilitation centers all over France, and are in contact with patients for whom they design parts according to their pathologies and personal characteristics.

These healthcare professionals work closely with our R&D teams to offer innovative solutions to patients.

What are the challenges you face in 3D printing for orthotics and prosthetics, and how do you overcome them?

A major challenge facing professionals in this sector concerns the support of healthcare services.The materials commonly used in 3D printing (mainly polyamide) are not reimbursed by the social security system, which slows down the adoption of these technologies.

The maximum achievable size of a device at a reasonable cost is another obstacle. This applies, for example, to parts the size of wheelchairs, where thermoforming technology is currently more efficient.

Furthermore, when we need to produce parts with very specific properties (rigidity or rebound, for example), we don’t always find the right answer among the choices offered by additive manufacturing.

Finally, I’d say that to grasp the true value of the technology, it’s imperative to develop a very good knowledge of the ecosystem around it, in particular a good command of design, scan and simulation tools.

Any last words?

At Ottobok.care, our vocation is to manufacture solutions that make life easier for our patients. Whether it’s by making them more comfortable to use on a day-to-day basis, or during the care process, where we take particular care not to overburden patients. In both these respects, 3D printing has helped us a great deal in recent years!

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