“I am a team member of the Translational Research and Knowledge Management (TRKM) department. The TRKM is the crosslink between external, applied research and the development of products. The department attends research projects from the first idea to a functional prototype. In the Symbionica project Ottobock has the role of the end-user of the Symbionica machine. My task in the Symbionica project is the acquisition of end-user requirements and the support for the generation of the process design. The selection and support of the consortium with an end-user use case scenario is one of my main tasks. Also the development of functional constructions for the additive manufacturing with the aim to test the Symbionica machine and its usefulness is one of my activities.”
Tell us more about…OTTOBOCK!
The Ottobock HealthCare GmbH is a German manufacturer of prosthetic systems, orthotics and wheelchairs situated in Duderstadt. In the history of prosthetics Ottobock has been responsible for several important innovations, including the C-Leg, a computerized knee that adaptively varies its behaviour to suit the patients’ gait. Since 1988 Ottobock has been the exclusive partner to the Paralympic Games. In 2015 Ottobock had a workforce of 6300 employees worldwide.
Can you describe the application and the characteristics of your demonstrator use case?
The use case of Ottobock for the Symbionica project is the 1D35 prosthetic foot. It consists of a lot of parts with different material. The pyramidal adapter and the adapter plate consist of stainless steel and aluminium. The main component of the foot, the S-spring, consists of a fibre reinforced plastic. In addition there are some PU foam parts and a PU outer shell. This multimaterial construction is one reason the 1D35 foot was selected as use case. It would be interesting to combine all the different parts in one print (but still with different materials). The material of the S-spring eventually could be changed to titanium. Also a prosthetic foot is a high loaded part. As AM parts still lack of stability it will be interesting to test a part from the Symbionica machine under high loads.
Which are the benefits that the Symbionica machine can offer to the prosthesis market?
Prosthetics are highly individualized parts. Every patient needs an own solution. A prosthetic foot is adapted to the patients anatomy, weight and also the behaviour. The idea to produce zero-defect, highly individualized parts of minimum quantities in one manufacturing step with a multimaterial approach is very interesting for the prosthetic market. In fact, there would be a personalized solution for every patient without any extra costs or effort. In general, the additive manufacturing is a technique with high potential since the geometrical freedom can be used to create complete new functional constructions that couldn’t be produced differently.
Which are the most relevant aspects of the Symbionica machine for your business?
Starting with the simple scan of a patient it could be possible to produce a personalized solution for every patient. An automated scaling of the prosthetics would be one of the most relevant aspects. The multimaterial approach would open up a lot of new possibilities to combine different parts and also properties. The material efficiency could be increased enormously since every material could be applied only at the position where it fulfils their task best. The machine vision system offers also the possibility to produce zero-defect parts which would be another very important aspect, especially in the production of medical devices. A new generation of high-level specialists in the AM process field combined with a highly advanced machine like the Symbionica machine would have a huge potential for the prosthetic business.
Oliver Mizera, OTTOBOCK