Father Takes Up 3D Printing, and Founds New Company, to Create Son’s Custom Orthosis

Some of the most heartwarming aspects of the 3D printing industry involve the people who do everything they can to develop and provide affordable 3D printed prosthetics to people who need them the most. Just in time for Father’s Day, Formlabs has shared a beautiful story about a dad who worked tirelessly to help his young son walk on his own…and ended up helping others along the way.

Cerebral palsy (CP) causes more than 17 million people around the world to have limited control of their own bodies. Seven years ago, Nik, the son of Matej and Mateja Vlašič, was born one month early, and due to difficulties during childbirth, suffered brain damage that led to the diagnosis of CP, and an inability to stand or walk on his own.

To help CP patients walk, many doctors will prescribe standard orthoses meant to correct spine and limb disorders. Patients can purchase pre-made orthotics, and some can even be slightly modified to better fit the patient, but it’s not easy to use one device to help with several symptoms, and they can even lead to skin irritation and pain.

Custom orthoses, CNC machined based off of a plaster or foam box impression, generally fit better, but the cost can be astronomical, even with insurance, and delivery can take weeks. On top of that, children outgrow them quickly.

Matej, who has an engineering background, said, Based on my knowledge, I knew that a piece of plastic could not cost so much money.”

Matej has worked hard all of Nik’s life to help him move on his own, even using ski boots to stabilize his ankles when he got older.

When you’re looking at your child, you instinctively know what to do in order to help him. When Nik was unable to turn on his side, I decided to build a ramp so that he could easily flip on his belly. When he found out that this was fun, he was trying to do it all by himself,” Matej said.

He instantly felt confident, and you could see it in his eyes that he loved it and that he wanted to progress. This is what kept us going.”

Unfortunately, Nik’s short Achilles tendon and low muscle tone kept him on his toes.

He was afraid of walking because his feet were in a really bad position,” said Petra Timošenko, Nik’s physiotherapist. “If he had tried to walk longer like that, he would have injured the bones and the joints.”

Matej knew he had to find a better way to help his son.

The lack of comfort and high price combined with all the cons were enough that I decided to do something about it. I didn’t have the solution at that time, but I wanted to find a better way to design it,” Matej said. “I was just trying to help my son the best possible way.

I didn’t know how orthoses are produced currently, so I was able to look outside of the box.”

He had heard of 3D printing, and after conducting some research, determined that the technology was accurate enough to create a properly-fitted orthosis. One of the benefits of 3D printing, especially in the healthcare field, is its ability to design customized products at a more affordable cost, and Matej was confident he could create a custom, 3D printed orthosis that would give Nik the correction and support he needed.

After a few attempts, Matej successfully digitized Nik’s feet, learned 3D modeling, and spent the next six months researching and experimenting, and eventually developed an innovative workflow, which starts with placing the patient’s feet, in the corrected, standing position, on a vacuum bag.

An iPad-mounted structure scanner scans the footprints from the bag, while the feet are also 3D scanned from above, and the data is merged and cleaned up into an accurate representation. The custom orthosis is designed right on the 3D scanned foot in CAD software, and then 3D printed in high resolution on a Form 2 3D printer with Durable Resin.

The first 3D printed prototype reached almost to Nik’s knee and kept him from walking freely, so Matej got to work on the second iteration, creating a prototype that fit inside a regular shoe. Finally, a successful prototype was created.

“In two or three days he was walking, and we were not needed to take care of him so that he doesn’t fall anymore,” Matej said. “The change was immediate, it was unbelievable.”

Nik’s orthosis is barely visible.

Just how braces align teeth, the 3D printed orthosis keeps Nik’s foot in the corrected position. It’s best to use orthoses at a young age, as children’s bodies can adapt while they grow. Physiotherapy also helps to strengthen ligaments and muscles.

When he’d been using the orthosis for two or three months, for the first time, I saw Nik smiling,” said Timošenko. “After four or five months, he started to become faster and faster. His steps became longer, and his walking more smooth. He actually started to dance.

Now I can do much more sophisticated exercise with him. We can run on a treadmill, we can jump, because I know that his feet are in the right position and I can’t cause any deformation to his bones or joints, that might, on the long term, require an operation to correct. If he didn’t have this orthosis, his feet would be in danger.”

Matej created four versions of Nik’s 3D printed orthosis.

The first version gave him confidence and stabilized him. The second version improved his overall walking smoothness,” Matej explained. “Then the third helped him get better posture, and that’s when he really started to enjoy the walking and started to play around. The fourth orthosis corrected his right foot that was off the center of his body, so now he’s able to stand with his feet together in a straightened, upright position.”

After looking at the workflow, and measuring Nik’s feet with and without his 3D printed orthoses, certified orthotist and prosthetist Dejan Tašner knew that Matej had created a novel solution. He is able to make an affordable custom orthosis in less than 24 hours, and the devices are also comfortable.

3D printing allows us to create orthotics with different thicknesses in different areas. We can apply a more thick area where it’s needed and minimal thickness to the areas where correction is not required,” Matej explained. “This is not possible with current solutions.

Orthoses don’t need to hurt, only without pain can the children accept them.”

Matej and his wife decided to certify the workflow, which is now patent-pending, so the process and components will meet standard requirements for medical devices and allow for clinical trials. Matej quit his job to focus on 3D printed, patient-specific 3D printed children’s orthotics full-time and, together with Mateja, Tašner, and Timošenko, formed a new company called aNImaKe.

At the moment, we are testing with several patients with different pathologies from age three to 11,” Tašner said. “We already see improvements in terms of biomechanics, which is the main goal. But also, crucially, a positive change in sentiment that the parents see in the daily life of their children because they need to feel comfortable to use the orthosis often enough to improve their walking.”

aNImaKe hopes to expand the technique to other parts of the body, such as a hand brace that helps young CP patients spread their fingers.

We want to enlighten others in the medical industry about the tools that are available today to provide better options to the children,” Matej said. “Orthotics should be built for a person, and should treat only the symptoms, not be standardized solutions that put them in boxes.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source/Images: Formlabs]


Team Effort Uses 3D Printing to Restore Coral Reefs

[Image: SECORE: Paul Selvaggio]

Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, with thousands of animal and plant species living in their colorful ocean-floor habitats. These reefs are in quite a bit of trouble currently, however. In the past 30 years, 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs have died and if changes aren’t made to slow the progression of climate change and curb other human-caused damage to the reefs, 90 percent of them may die in the next century. Coral reefs aren’t just vital to the plants and animals that call them home, but to humans as well – they provide a lot of income through tourism and fishing, as well as protecting coastlines during violent storms.

Saving them, therefore, is critical, and involves some human intervention at this point. Coral are sessile animals, meaning that they take root like plants but capture their food from the ocean water. Coral polyps root themselves in ocean rocks, gradually reproducing and growing until they form the lush, brightly colored reefs that people travel thousands of miles to see. It’s a slow process, though – coral reefs grow by centimeters each year, taking thousands of years to become large and thriving. Right now, coral reefs don’t have thousands of years, so they need our help.

Several organizations have been trying to help coral by 3D printing artificial reefs and sinking them in the ocean in hopes of attracting free-floating coral polyps to embed themselves and begin reproducing. An organization called SECORE International (Sexual Coral Reproduction) is also using 3D printing, but taking a more hands-on, aggressive approach. SECORE is a nonprofit global network of scientists, public aquarium professionals and local stakeholders working to protect and restore coral reefs. Along with its partners, which include the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Nature Conservancy, SECORE is developing restoration processes that leverage the natural reproductive habits of coral.

3D printed seeding units. [Image: SECORE/Valérie Chamberland]

Certain coral species naturally broadcast egg and sperm cells, which are collected by SECORE, fertilized, and then raised in tanks until they become freely swimming larvae. Those larvae are then introduced to 3D printed “seeding units” that resemble places on natural reefs where coral would attach. Once the coral have embedded themselves, the seeding units are planted on reef areas in need of restoration.

It’s an effective approach, but a costly one, unfortunately.

“One of the ways SECORE is aiming to reduce these costs is by designing seeding units that do not need to be manually attached to the reef, but rather can be sown from a boat or other method, similar to how a farmer would sow seeds in a field,” said SECORE Project and Workshop Manager Aric Bickel.

3D printing is another way to keep costs down, as well as to rapidly produce the seeding units. SECORE aims to produce a million of the units by 2021, and hundreds of thousands of units annually by then. Phase One of the project is taking place in the Caribbean, with research and training hubs in Mexico, Curaçao and the Bahamas.

“3D printing allows us to do a bit of rapid prototyping. We were looking at several different materials, and 3D printing allows us to print a variety of materials,” Bickel said. “It also saves the cost of having to make molds or castings which, particularly for the initial prototypes, would be a significant amount of money invested.”

A diver with a tray of the seeding units [Image: SECORE/Benjamin Mueller]

CAS is one of SECORE’s primary funding providers, and because SECORE is a small team with limited engineering capabilities, CAS turned to the Autodesk Foundation, with which it looked into various design firms for help with the development of the seeding units.

“In collaboration with the Foundation, we reached out to several design firms,” Bickel said. “Emerging Objects seemed like they would be the best folks to help us out with this next design phase and hopefully with the iterative design phases as we go forward.”

One of the main challenges SECORE has been having is finding the best material and design combination for the seeding units. Not just any shape can be used – the units need to be able to wedge themselves into the reefs without manual assistance. The material is an issue, too. SECORE had been using rough cement for the seeding units, but that material worked a little too well – in addition to attracting corals, it also attracted quite a few competing organisms.

“One issue was with competition from other species on the units themselves,” said Bickel. “What the trials showed is that a slicker surface will cut down on that potential competition. The needle that you have to thread here is having a surface that’s rough enough for corals to settle on and to attach to but smooth enough that it’s not a good location for other organisms such as sponges and algae to attach to.”

Several years of trials and experiments revealed ceramic to be a good potential material for the seeding units. Emerging Objects has plenty of experience in the experimental use of 3D printed ceramic, but needed to be able to 3D print the material on a large scale, so the company reached out to Boston Ceramics for help.

“Boston Ceramics is one of the few companies we’re aware of in the world that can potentially meet some of the demands for the number of substrates we’ll be using,” said Bickel.

The team used Autodesk Netfabb to design the original shape, a tetrapod, for the seeding units, and has been experimenting with other designs that are better suited to landing and wedging themselves in the surfaces of the reefs and protecting the larvae. One of those designs looks like a ninja throwing star.

[Image: SECORE/Valérie Chamberland]

“The question we posed to our working group was, ‘Can you give us your best impression of what promotes coral larvae to grow, and what’s going to allow them to survive in the ocean as they grow up in these early life stages?’” said Bickel.

The SECORE project is not one of immediate gratification. The organization grows its corals from embryos in small conglomerations of cells, and depending on the species, it can take several years for the corals to become sexually mature. In earlier life stages, however, the coral can still provide habitats for fish and other species.

This elkhorn coral was outplanted by SECORE five years ago. Since then, it has grown into a mature colony, which now spawns with other elkhorn colonies in the waters of Curaçao. [Image: SECORE/Paul Selvaggio]

“It’s definitely an investment in the future,” Bickel said. “I think that with really complicated ecosystems, we’re talking many years before you start seeing comparable structure return to areas that are being restored. The main focus at the moment is, can we improve our methods and our technologies to upscale this type of restoration to the levels needed to counteract the decline?”

SECORE isn’t the only organization working to do so, and the hope is that with enough of them putting effort into restoring coral reefs, the damage can be mitigated and even reversed.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source: Autodesk]


How I Created The Perfect Engagement Ring

I’m Dan, and I designed and 3D printed several things for my wedding back in March of 2016. I wanted my wedding to have custom touches, to be meaningful for my family and friends and not just a commercialized, cookie cutter event. I could have gone the DIY route, but why pull out the hammer and saw when I could simply design something, upload the file and have it made professionally instead?

For the uninitiated, it may sound hard to design a ring, but it’s more time intensive than difficult. It took four months start to finish. More time than shopping for a ring, sure, but the result was something completely personal and it cost at least 50% less than if I’d bought it retail from a major name brand, even with the design and jeweler fees and the multiple prototypes. This is how I did it.

Find an Experienced 3D Designer with Shapeways

I didn’t design the ring by myself. I knew I needed an experienced 3D designer, someone who had created settings before. Scott Denton, came highly recommended. I liked his aesthetic, that he’s based in New York, and is super chill. He made the process easy.

Be clear about the design you want

Jen made the design process easy too. She had a Pinterest board filled with engagement rings she liked. All I had to do was look through them to start compiling design themes; she liked clean simple styles, and also ones with antique engraved elements.

But I didn’t just want the ring to be beautiful, I wanted it to be functional, something comfortable that fit her lifestyle. She’s a dentist and constantly taking gloves on and off all day, so the setting couldn’t be big or too high. And her hands are small–a 3 ring size–so the design needed to be proportional.


Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 5.18.07 PM

Discuss Your Design With a Reputable Jeweler

While Scott or I could have attempted to set the stone ourselves, given the importance and cost of this ring, I wanted a professional to ensure the setting would last. Through personal recommendations, I found an experienced jeweler. He and I discussed the kind of ring I had in mind, and he gave a lot of great feedback on the kind of stone and setting I’d need. I recommend finding a professional for this and having a long conversation both to ensure they have the skills needed and that you’re designing your ring with the best setting in mind.

Buy a Stone

After considering my design and the conversations I had the jeweler, I settled on a stone size based on looking at diamonds in New York City’s diamond district. It’s pretty tricky to get a sense of how proportions will work by looking at pictures and renders so it’s helpful to take a look in person if you can, even if it’s a regular jewelry shop. I ended up buying the diamond wholesale in New York City but if there isn’t a wholesaler near you, there are some good online options, like Blue Nile.

Iterate Your Design

I spelled out my design ideas for Scott, sharing a few of Jen’s pins, and I also got him the exact dimensions of the diamond I’d bought along with her ring size. He came back with a rough sketch and we iterated the design from there, swapping sketches till we landed on the right design and it could be built out as a 3D file.

Prototype Your Ring

We prototyped it first in Fine Detail Plastic (FDP), one of Shapeways’ plastics, and realized the ring was too thin. The engravings also weren’t coming out as planned, even though they’d look great in the renderings. We thickened and beveled everything then printed in FDP again. Happy with that version, we tested it out in silver before doing the final print in platinum and having the jeweler set the stone.

custom designed, 3D printed engagement ring


The whole proposal was a surprise, including the ring, my renting out and decorating a lounge, inviting Jen’s close friends and family, and taking her there under the guise of our going to a friend’s Memorial Day BBQ. I was pretty sure the ring would be a good fit, but wasn’t 100% sure, and it wasn’t like I could return it, so was naturally nervous. But the fit was perfect, and she loved it! She talked about it nonstop and even ran up to strangers to show them how it was 3D printed. Oh, and she said yes, but you knew that already.


*updated by Liz Livi on 6/15/18

The post How I Created The Perfect Engagement Ring appeared first on Shapeways Magazine.

Designer Spotlight: Gary Adams (BernieDawg)

Gary Adams has always been a builder. So when his noisy camping stove disturbed his outdoor experience, he decided to fashion his own solution. Here, Gary talks about how BernieDawg Stoves got started and how he uses 3D printing to scale his production.

Tell us about your background. Were you always a creator?

From as early as I can remember, I was using tools to build things. When I was a kid, I would join other kids in the neighborhood and build treehouses, shacks, and fortresses out of scrap lumber and found materials. We loved to build toy boats out of construction scraps and float them in the bay. Hammers, saws, nails, and screws were in use by all the kids I knew. It was a different time. I had slot cars and built my own free-standing 4’x8’ layout from plywood and two-by-fours when I was ten. No adult help. I built all my own furniture when I went away to college – sling sofa, coffee table, bed frame, redwood dining table, etc.

I taught junior high school shop classes for quite a few years, everything from drafting and woodworking to metalworking and small engines. When I left teaching, I started my own custom cabinet- and furniture-making business; a one-man shop. Later, I closed the business to work for a custom cabinet shop competitor down the road. The idea was to let them deal with all the business details and so I could get back to the (real) “creating.”

What led you to your interest in creating stove caps?

In the midst of my work life, I was always hiking, backpacking, and whitewater kayaking and rafting avocationally. After many years of using the same outdoor cooking gear (a SIGG Tourist cook kit with a Svea 123R stove), I found myself somewhat embarrassed by my loud, conversation-stifling, out-of-date Svea while on a group Rogue River trip. I sought to sell it on eBay and instead discovered a whole world of other stoves that drew my interest. Many of the stoves that I had coveted in the early ’70s and ’80s were now much more affordable as used gear.

So, rather than get rid of my old kit, I ended up buying a whole lot of used kits and, over a period of several years, became fluent in their repair and operation. I even got into household and marine stoves and ranges. Sharing these skills through social forums, web pages, and YouTube videos created a sort of unplanned Internet notoriety for me.

PolarDawg For Optimus Polaris Optifuel 3d printed Isobutane (inverted)

When did you start 3D printing your product?

I started building silent caps for vintage stoves by hand using metal sheet and tubing and brazing the components together. The result was so successful that tons of orders and requests flowed in almost immediately. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the same designs could be modified to silence modern backpacking stoves. People went nuts for them, too. I soon had a waiting list of several months. I found myself tied to the shop with little time to kayak or hike. The labor involved was huge for such a small product – it typically took between four and eight hours to just make one.

I knew I needed a better approach. I put a freeze on the production list and once I cleared my wait list, I began offering the caps at auction on eBay, starting at a $1. This allowed me to make three or four a week and still have a life. But auction prices started reaching over $200, then $300, then $400 for a single cap. It was frenzied. The fact that people would pay those prices still amazes me. I wasn’t trying to get rich – I was just trying to set some limit to the production so I didn’t lose my mind and work myself sick.

Then 3D printing came to the rescue with unlimited production available simply by ordering it. Initially, I’d order rafts of 3D caps to sell on eBay; eventually I just turned over the entire business end to the welcoming arms of Shapeways. I set my shop up so Shapeways does the web work, money handling, and shipping stuff and I don’t have to. That stuff is yuck. Glad they do it and not me.

Where did the name “BernieDawg” come from?

My middle name is Bernard. Stoves burn. My kayaker buddies have called me “Big Dog” for the last 30+ years. (I’m quite tall.) “Big Dog” originated from me being an early adopter of “Big Dog” baggie shorts in 1983, being physically big, and looking kinda funny as a skinny tall guy in big baggie yellow Big Dog shorts. “BernieDawg” came out of the Big Dog nickname since Big Dog is usually already taken as a username across the internet. “BernieDawg” is also a play on “Burning Dog”. Take a look at the little dog in the picture and note that he has little “flames” I fashioned – “burnie-dog”. Get it?

3D design can be very daunting. Tell us about the design process for creating the stove caps and how you learned to 3D model.

I taught myself to use real engineering CAD software in order to do my models. It took me a couple of months, part-time, to work out how to successfully transfer my hand-built designs into CAD and, thence, to .stl files that could be printed. My specs are quite exact. I use TurboCAD Mac Pro. It’s a pretty bare-bones, low-tech CAD engineering software for the Mac OS.

What is your favorite material, and how did you pick it for your stove caps?

I use only one material – metal. Shapeways metal (stainless steel/bronze blend) is the only material that stands up to the heat of stove combustion. Though, it’s a less than ideal conductor of heat. I work around that in the designs. The polished finishes have better surface quality because Shapeways peens it with ceramic beads during finishing.

What makes BernieDawg stove caps special?

BernieDawg stove caps are the first modern recreation, and creation for the modern stoves since they were never historically made in those sizes, of the historic early 20th century production silent damper caps. They’re developed from hundreds of hours of hand-building and experimentation. They’re finely tuned to perform well.

What advice do you have for hobbyist designers, just getting started?

Working at a computer to do design work is all well and good, but understanding how to make stuff with your hands will help you better develop your designs and ideas. If you are younger than 40, I’d say go learn some actual tool skills. Do some woodworking or metalworking with your hands. Work up a sweat. It’s good for you, it’s honest work, and you’ll use those skills the rest of your life. You’ll always be able to pick up a tool you learned early and use it again later in life. It’s like riding a bike. And you can always use a hand tool when the power is out.

Take a class! Build a guitar, build some furniture or even build a kayak. Make some wood or metal chips. All that physical labor is way healthier than sitting in a chair in front of a screen, too.



The post Designer Spotlight: Gary Adams (BernieDawg) appeared first on Shapeways Magazine.

Sandia National Laboratories Develops Work Cell With Modular Robot For Testing Printed Parts

Sandia National Laboratories in the US has developed a new work cell system for testing 3D printed parts using a modular robot. Sandia describe is as a modular, scalable and flexible work cell, which they have named Alinstante (Spanish for “in an instant”). The purpose of the cell is to determine the quality of parts and […]

The post Sandia National Laboratories Develops Work Cell With Modular Robot For Testing Printed Parts appeared first on 3D Printing.

M3D launches sub $500 color 3D printer for the desktop

U.S. 3D printer manufacturer M3D has launched the Crane Quad – a desktop FFF machine reportedly capable of mixing and printing over 50,000 colors. According to Michael Armani, co-founder and CEO of M3D, “Our new Crane Quad desktop 3D color printer is a real breakthrough in 3D printing capability and affordability,” “Its ability to print […]

Rize launches industrial additive manufacturing solution with PSMI

Rize Inc., manufacturer of the Rize One Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD) 3D printer, has announced a partnership with manufacturing optimization specialist Production Services Management, Inc. (PSMI). Under the Azoth subsidiary, PSMI, with the help of Rize, has launched the  Additive Indirect Supplies Crib, a new type of business model to provide manufacturers with combined additive and […]

How-to Build: A Desktop Fantasy Waterfall

A beautiful build from Martina at Youtube channel Nerdforge. She builds a 3-D fountain using foam, 3-D printed “crystals”, a water pump, and lighting.

She says:

I wanted to make something made of transparent filament that I could make glowing with LED lights, and so I decided to 3D print some crystals – but I couldn’t just have those alone, which is why I ended up making this DIY indoor desktop fountain with a waterfall and overgrown by moss! I haven’t done anything this similar to miniature landscaping before, but I had a lot of fun doing it!


A nice use of multiple techniques for building such art. You can see step by step images on imgur.

#3DPrinted Cloud Pergola at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia #ArtTuesday


From Arch Daily:

As part of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia introduced one of the world’s largest 3D printed structures. Cloud Pergola is an installation that crosses the boundaries of architecture, art, precision engineering, computational design and robotic fabrication.

As part of the Cloud Pergola project, Croatian architect Alisa Andrasek created the design, that brings into dynamic convergence natural forces and man-made structures. Inspired by the complexity and beauty of cloud formations, Andrasek mathematically captured a snapshot of architectural fabric at high resolution as a complex synthesis of novel tectonics, complex porosity, light filtering and shadow casting. The structure was created using computational simulation, big data and robotic 3D printing by Ai Build.

Read more

Screenshot 4 2 14 11 48 AMEvery Tuesday is Art Tuesday here at Adafruit! Today we celebrate artists and makers from around the world who are designing innovative and creative works using technology, science, electronics and more. You can start your own career as an artist today with Adafruit’s conductive paints, art-related electronics kits, LEDs, wearables, 3D printers and more! Make your most imaginative designs come to life with our helpful tutorials from the Adafruit Learning System. And don’t forget to check in every Art Tuesday for more artistic inspiration here on the Adafruit Blog!