A toddler has taken her first independent steps wearing 3D printed orthotics made by Australian start-up AbilityMate
Eve Darcy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy only a few weeks after her birth; it wasn’t a surprise that Eve could only walk aided by a rolling frame as she growing. But now, after a couple of days wearing 3D printed orthotics, she’s happily walking by her own and doing everyday activities like a normal child.
“She was in daycare on Wednesday, she walked in with her frame, she didn’t go Thursday, and she walked in on her own on Friday. It happened so fast, she just took off”. Said Joe Darcy, Eve’s father.
Attending a global problematic
In Australia, where Eve lives, a child is born with cerebral palsy every 15hr. As a result, this is the most common childhood physical disability in the country so far. While most of these children need to wear orthotics throughout their life, the current waitlist to get to see an orthotist can take up to eight months, and, once the child has finally an appointment, he or she is subject to an impractical plaster casting process. From there, it can take up to 12 weeks to turn that cast into a wearable device.
What is more concerning, according to the World Health Organization, 100 million children are in need of orthotics worldwide, and demand is exponentially exceeding supply.
AbilityMate is a small company in Sydney’s west. The startup is currently working towards a future where people with disabilities can have affordable and faster access to the assistive products they need.
AbilityMate’s vision embodies the mantra “Design Global, Manufacture Local”
Although their model applies to many different devices, they decided to begin with a focus on one of the greatest need areas: customized Orthotics for children.
The Magic Shoes Project
AbilityMate use 3D printing technology to create tailored orthotics or ‘Magic Shoes’ in a fraction of the time a conventional process requires. They utilize a 3D scanner to take the necessary measurements of the child’s foot. Then an expert orthotist model it to medical requirements and 3D print the Orthoses; they use an industrial EOS SLS Printer with medical-grade Nylon material.
Magic Shoes are manufactured at a factory in Guildford and can be fitted in less than two months.
Expected Project Outcomes
- Improvement in Wait Times – Reduction of wait times by 50-80%.
- Increased Efficiency of the Orthotists – by 400-600%, freeing them up to help more kids.
- Improved Patient Experience – Development of child centric technologies that fundamentally changes the patient’s experience for the better.
- Decrease in Total Cost of Care – Cost savings for families, clinics , NDIS and other equipment funding bodies.
The start-up project is now searching for 30 children to trial the shoes.
AbilityMate is currently launching a groundbreaking initiative to help children with walk disabilities. They are looking for 20 to 30 children, ages 2-8 years old, who are in need of ankle/foot orthotics and meet strict inclusion criteria to participate in a clinical trial of 3D Printed AFOs. If this other trial result as positive as Eve’s, AbilityMate shall start commercializing their Magic shoes in Australia.
Another of their goals is to make designs available for global collaboration through a safe & ethical open license and training program.
The organization also needs research partners and orthotists to be among the first to offer Magic Shoes in Australia. So, if you’re interested in applying for any of the above, you can take a look at their site.
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