Is it the right time to invest in 3D technologies for your orthopaedic practice?

Cédric Gilissen
December 30, 2020

In times when Netflix is offering personalised entertainment, why shouldn’t patients expect the same service levels from you? 3D printing and other recent innovations help you fulfil these expectations and deliver qualitative orthotics that are personalised and more comfortable. Buying a 3D printer isn’t that difficult, but is the right timing?

3D printer with 3D printed forearm orthosis

First, we need to answer the question of why 3D technologies matter to orthopaedic practitioners. Numerous research papers and reports prove that 3D technologies already play an essential role in the quality improvement of orthotics designing and production. If implemented correctly, they act as an additional tool which helps orthopaedic technicians and clinicians automate and optimise processes.

3D technology is not substituting the art of creating orthoses with plain automation but instead expanding what is possible by giving you a new set of tools. 3D technology allows you to improve your craftsmanship further and adds a digital layer to streamline your processes. For orthopaedic practitioners, the implementation of 3D technology results in a better response to clinical expectations, higher production efficiency, and reduced material consumption. Together these improvements translate into a substantial profit increase.

Let’s zoom in a bit, using 3D technologies, an immobilisation device for the forearm can now be created in up to 80% less time working on the device and at less than 50% of the costs:

For a complete comparison of the traditional and digital workflow, you can download our expert guide here.

While innovation-driven orthopaedic practices are already 3D printing numerous orthotics, it can feel like your organisation is being left in the dark by not adopting 3D technologies. Every use case of 3D technology has specific pros and cons to be weighed before transitioning to a 3D-based workflow.

Before you integrate 3D technologies, it’s vital to research how 3D technologies can facilitate more efficient processes for orthotics creation. Allow technology experts to be part of your innovation process and start small. Consider working together with Spentys. We help you assess whether 3D technologies are right for your application.

How do you know if it is the right time to invest in 3D printing?

As market leaders across the industry keep investing in the latest technology to stay ahead of the competition, 3D technologies have become accessible and easy to use. It’s now possible to enjoy the benefits of 3D technologies without having to make huge investments or learn new skills.

Hence, 3D technologies are levelling the playing field. 3D printing enables you to manufacture orthotic devices automatically in their near-final form with minimal post-processing required. As a result, you will be spending less time working on the devices and spending more time with your patients.

To find out if it’s the right time to invest in 3D technologies, ask yourself if you agree or disagree with the following statements:

  • "I am spending too much time in the workshop working on laborious tasks. It would be better if somebody (or something else) could do it for me."
  • "I want to have a positive impact on the environment."
  • "I find it challenging to respond to the changing demands of doctors and surgeons."
  • "I’d like to broaden my portfolio of orthotics so that I can help more patients with a broader range of pathologies."
  • "My patients deserve orthotics of the highest quality and should be proud to wear them."
  • "The experience of getting an orthotic should be pleasant and non-invasive."
  • "Currently, the costs of creating specific orthotics outweigh the benefits."

If you agree with at least one of the statements presented above the time is right to start with 3D printing. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you immediately have to make big investments.

Implementing 3D technologies already decreases costs and production time and increases quality for most applications. Breakthrough opportunities in cost, speed and quality can be unlocked when orthotics are designed intentionally with 3D technologies in mind from the start based on your way of working. We advise you to start small at your own rhythm so that you can analyse what the impact of these new technologies means for you.


What do 3D Technologies Bring to the O&P field? Here is a quick overview of the main advantages:

1.      Mass Customisation of Perfect Fitting Orthopedic Devices

The creation of high-quality, custom-made orthoses results in increased treatment adherence and comfortability. You can create shapes that better fit the patient’s body part. Furthermore, you get more control over key variables like local density and thickness. With 3D printing, it is possible to create more (or less) rigid reinforcement zones. For instance, you can choose to lower the density for parts that need to be thermoformed. 3D printing brings you all this flexibility while simultaneously improving the efficiency of your production.

2.      Optimise Production

Eliminate the use of plaster in most applications and ensure a safe working environment. You can pre-plan and 3D print overnight to utilise downtime and reduce lead times by automating tedious parts of the workflow. Setup your printers to run while you sleep and wake up to a freshly printed orthotic.

3.      Freedom to Innovate

Be at the forefront of orthopaedic innovation. In terms of design and creation, these tools give access to a degree of freedom never seen before in the O&P industry. Start creating devices that elevate your patient’s experience to a new level by using new tools and using new materials.

4.      Better Waste Management

Thermoforming, drape moulding and similar procedures consume a large number of materials. With 3D printing, the volume of waste can be reduced because you only print what you need. No additional waste is generated in the process. Moreover, 3D printed orthoses can be made of recyclable and reusable materials to minimise the ecological footprint.

5.      Online Centralized Data

With a digital workflow, you can store all your data in the cloud. Therefore, all information about the patient is easy to find, ready to be modified, or be reused whenever you need it. Digital storage doesn’t take physical space in your workshop (like moulds) and can be stored for an indefinite amount of time. Furthermore, you'll be able to discover new insights into these data streams.

6.      A frictionless experience for the patient

3D scanning increases the accuracy of the fit and biocompatible materials have proven to be more comfortable and generate fewer skin problems. 3D technologies allow for incredible customizability to provide patients with orthopaedic devices that are not only functional but also esthetic and durable. Furthermore, 3D scanning is a lot less invasive than using plaster. Especially for younger patients, this can ease the process of getting an orthotic.

Want to Reinvent Orthopaedics?

Discovering 3D technologies is an exciting yet cumbersome project. We want to be your partner, providing you with the tools and expertise to start leveraging the benefits of 3D technology, optimising production efficiency and increasing your bottom line. All this without experiencing the struggle of the learning curve so that you can offer premium quality on your first iterations. If you are ready to start using 3D technologies, why not schedule a call with one of application specialist?


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