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Case Study

RTM Ortopedia Personalizzata prosthetic moulds achieve new fit with 3D printing.

March 01, 2020

FDM 3D printing technology has cut RTM Ortopedia Personalizzata's tooling time by 93%.

A worldwide leader in prosthetics breaks mould.

Customised prostheses by their very nature demand high precision, functionality and durability to withstand everyday use. RTM Ortopedia Personalizzata (RTM), a worldwide leader in customised prostheses, based on Budrio, Italy, used chalk moulds to cast lower limb and hand prostheses. With the ethos that every patient has different medical and physical requirements, the company ensures that each individual prosthesis meets the user’s need for comfort, durability and aesthetics. However, the fragility of these chalk moulds led to frequent breakages during transit.

“The process was unreliable as we could never guarantee that we would receive the mould undamaged,” said Elio Antenucci, CAD Systems Manager at RTM. Additionally, importing heavy moulds from as far away as China resulted in expensive shipping costs and lengthy delivery times of around 30 days before reaching the Italian manufacturing house. 

By introducing Stratasys 3D printing in-house we can receive a customer scan from anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes and can rapid prototype the mould within a few hours. Since installing the technology, we have cut our prosthetic tool turnaround time by as much as 93%.

Subtractive manufacturing a negative for prosthetics.

RTM moved to using 7- axis robots to make leg prostheses from delicate foam, but that required several hours of bathing in resin to harden. This is a labourious process, and in the case of hand prosthetics, the robot needs to carve sections in between the fingers that the drill cannot reach without cutting them off,” said Antenucci. This made the process fall short of the company’s rigorous standards. After years of enduring expensive mould costs, the company turned to 3D printing for a more advanced, cost-effective and efficient rapid prototyping solution that would also improve the accuracy of the prosthesis moulds.
Using its Stratasys FDM 3D printer, the company produces
a number of prosthesis that surpass those produced on its
industrial robots.
Previous prosthesis molds produced in chalk
resulted in expensive shipping costs and
were prone to damage during transit.

Cut tooling turnaround time. 

RTM turned to Stratasys’ 3D printing technology to produce prototypes with greater and more affordable personalisation. This improves patient outcomes, usability and affordability. Additionally, 3D printing is a clean process, enabling manufacturers to go from scan to design to print in a digital-only environment. “3D printing skips this time-consuming resin-soaking process and eliminates the restrictions of the foam. For us, Stratasys’ technology gives us greater manufacturing freedom than chalk moulding and far surpasses those of other artisan prosthetics,” said Antenucci. 3D printing allows RTM to produce individual prosthesis moulds by mirroring scans of the unaffected limb. These are then covered in silicon to produce the final prosthesis, with the 3D printed core model later removed.

 

3D printed in FDM thermoplastics, these prosthesis moulds are mechanically strong and perform much like the final product. The growing demand for personalised prosthetics requires the ability to customise quickly and with reliable results. By using additive manufacturing, RTM can produce durable prosthetics with unparalleled precision in a wide range of advanced 3D printing materials to save both time and costs.

“By introducing Stratasys 3D printing in-house we can receive a customer scan from anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes and can rapid prototype the mould within a few hours. Since installing the technology, we have cut our prosthetic tool turnaround time by as much as 93%,” said Antenucci. 

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