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Jul 14, 2023

Research and development project makes access to 3D orthotics easier

News Orthotics and Custom Footwear

As Jude jumps on tables and climbs up slides, you’d never know that less than a year ago these movements were challenging for this playful four-year-old.

Jude has Marfan syndrome, a disorder which affects the connective tissue in the heart, eyes and joints.

“Basically what that means is the connective tissue in his body is really floppy and stretchy,” Jude’s mum Amanda explains.

“So when it comes to growing and walking and moving he doesn’t have the strength or the support he needs because he has poor muscle tone. Also, most of his joints are hyper mobile.”

Last year, Jude was part of a research and development project that saw seven organisations – including Northcott, Northcott Innovation and for-purpose tech company AbilityMade – collaborating to offer 3D orthotics technology to children with disability who require Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFOs).

The process uses a 3D photo capture rig to take a digital mould of a leg in seconds – removing the need for plaster casts, which can be a traumatic experience for children with disability. The AFO is then created using 3D modelling and a 3D printer, replacing the lengthy manual fabrication process.

With his new AFOs, Jude now has the support he needs to be an active kid.

They’ve made a really big difference for Jude in terms of his mobility.

Stacy, Jude’s Mum

“His strength is probably the biggest thing we’ve noticed. He’s able to keep up with his mates at preschool and child care and he’s able to play at the park.

“The priority for us has always been to ensure he’s on an even playing field with kids his age.”

Due to a NSW Department of Industry Disability Sector Scale-Up – Business Acceleration Grant of $852,625, this technology will now be available to more children across the state.

The funding will allow Northcott, Northcott Innovation and AbilityMade to provide ten NSW-based private orthotists with the technology required to create 3D printed orthoses.

The project will also aim to pilot a 3D printed orthotic service for NDIS participants in remote and rural areas, while supporting local orthotists to provide more customised supports to children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

“As orthotists, our primary goal is fantastic care for our customers, so this digital process will enable us to spend more time with our customers and less time in the workshop manually making the orthoses,” Northcott Orthotist Vandeth Chhun says.

For parents like Amanda and Stacy, this project will mean a more inclusion and mobile life for their family members.

 “Our kids are our world and we hate seeing them in pain or struggling, so being able to do something with them that’s empowering, encouraging and fun is great,” Amanda says.

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