As you know, 3D printing is very popular in the medical field, and more and more attention is paid to the manufacture of orthoses and prosthetics. Thanks to additive manufacturing, these can be completely adapted to the morphology of each patient, and we are not limited to humans. In fact, it is also used for animals. This also translates into great advantages: simplification of the various stages of the manufacturing process, adaptation to individual medical needs, etc. The Berlin start-up Think3DDD has recognized these advantages and since 2018 has been engaged, among other things, in manufacturing long-lasting, inexpensive and personalized orthoses for animals using a 3D printer. We spoke with Tino Jacobi, founder and director of Think3DDD, to find out more about this young company.
3DN: Can you introduce yourself and Think3DDD?
I have long been interested in new technologies and their possibilities of interdisciplinary use. I first discovered 3D printing during my bachelor’s degree, which focused on computer science and chemistry. I have built several spare parts and learning models for the Lise Meitner Center for Higher Education. What excites me most about 3D technologies is their versatility, the wide selection of materials, the material-saving manufacturing and the flexible adaptation possibilities. If the 3D scanning method is skilfully combined with intelligent automated software and innovative materials, innovative and unique products can be created. Since I am fascinated by the almost infinite possibilities of 3D technologies, I have made my hobby my profession.
Together with Leonardo Lauer, I founded Think3DDD as a 3D printing service provider. We mainly focus on spare parts that are no longer produced, such as for vintage cars, small series and models for research institutes. This gives us an exciting insight into the most diverse research and developments. In this context, we do not always deal only with production, but also with model design and advice on materials. Think3DDD has also developed more and more of its own products. In the meantime, we offer, in addition to 3D services, individual 3D printed orthoses for humans and animals, masks and antimicrobial door handles. Our range of products is constantly expanding, being the most important thing for us to develop our products respecting the user and the environment.
3DN: How did the idea for Think3DDD come about?
The idea for individual healing sleeves for animals was born directly from a canine patient. Murphy, the mongrel dog of our then cooperation partner for 3D printing materials, had broken his leg while biting his hindquarters. Then the vet put a bandage on him. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t supportive enough and quickly caused irritation and inflammation. We clearly saw how Murphy struggled with the bandage. You shouldn’t risk an operation, especially since a simple fracture may heal on its own. This is how our first product was born, the VET orthi. What particularly fascinated us was that Murphy was suddenly walking around in our brace as if he didn’t have any broken bones. The swelling subsided and the fracture healed on its own fairly quickly. Based on this experience, we are looking for more and more suitable technologies and materials for our orthoses. Until now we have mainly dealt with dogs and cats. Typical treatable clinical pictures are, as in humans, fractures, sprains, osteoarthritis, and chronic gait disturbances. In particularly difficult cases, such as joint fractures, ligament tears or serious bone fractures, our brace can also be used as a support after an operation. We have also already manufactured individual prostheses.
3DN: What is the process of creating VET orthi?
The entire process of this custom splint can be divided into 3 steps. First, the part of the body to be treated is scanned. To do this, it is wrapped in patterned adhesive strips. Using any smartphone, the vet or pet owner records a 360-degree video of the body part. Our software automatically calculates the three-dimensional digital image of the video. In a second step, we adapt the VET orthi to the image using a semi-automated CAD program that we have developed. We take into account, among other things, the instructions of the veterinarian on the type of support desired. For example, should the orthosis be very stable or rather flexible, and where should swelling be protected? Furthermore, all of our models are optimized for the simplest 3D printing process. Therefore, no print media is needed, saving material and production time. Finally, the digital model is made on the 3D printer with a recyclable or compostable semi-flexible material. After minor modifications, the VET Orthosis can be worn directly by the animal patient. The advantage over traditional orthoses lies above all in the very good ventilation of the coat and skin, which helps prevent skin irritations and inflammations. The weight of the braces is also very low and they are easy to clean. Thanks to these and other advantages, most of our animal patients accept our support measure very quickly. And if a VET orthosis still bites, it can be easily reproduced with a 3D printer.
3DN: What are the future projects of Think3DDD?
On the one hand, we are expanding our product range, especially in the field of veterinary medicine. This means that our VET orthi products are becoming more and more complex thanks to flexible and free joints. This allows us to treat animals with more complicated cases. In addition, we continue to work on automation to manufacture our veterinary products even faster and regardless of location. In addition, an accessible online system is being developed that will make the 3D printing service affordable for small orders with standard materials. Through targeted automation, pure 3D printing orders from individuals, for example, can be made possible at a lower cost. Our biggest current project, however, is the creation of 3D-Medico. Here we are developing a coordinated and intuitive fitting and production system for orthopedic and rehabilitation technicians. It is also possible to extend it later to other health professionals. This will allow us to digitally and decentrally adapt and manufacture our individual orthoses, prostheses and orthopedic insoles on site, in each specialist company, according to medical prescription. For this we offer 3D scanning using smartphone video, adaptation using intuitive 3D CAD software, as well as manufacturing with the easiest 3D printing process and recyclable materials. As a final product, we have already developed the so-called orthimale as a hand orthosis. The vision of this project is to be able to offer everyone a treatment adapted to everyday life with individual and durable orthoses!
3DN: One last word for our readers?
As an interdisciplinary, young and international team, we are always looking for more cooperation and team members. So if you are a user of orthopedic tools or if you are a (young) researcher interested in an exchange, do not hesitate to contact us or follow us on LinkedIn. If you are looking for an internship, a bachelor’s or master’s thesis or a job, our doors are open to you. Do not hesitate to consult our employment page to find offers that suit you or to send your spontaneous application. We offer our students a fair integration in the team and a great practical experience, with the possibility of a long-term collaboration. Finally, a piece of advice: if you have the opportunity to make your hobby your job, take it! You will not regret !
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*Cover photo credits: Think3DDD
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