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3D Printed Polyurethane Soles Spell Pain Relief for Patients
In the advanced stages of diabetes, neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease are common symptoms in patients. These symptoms can wreak havoc on the body, leaving the tissue on the soles of the feet fragile and easily damaged, which can lead to severe discomfort and even the need for amputation.
To help these patients, researchers in Germany have recently developed a form of 3D-printed polyurethane insoles. To prevent pressure wounds, the insoles provide varying degrees of firmness or softness to meet the specific needs of each foot. The insoles provide better support to areas on the bottom of the patient’s foot that could be prone to specific injury.
To create the custom printed insoles, the research team first creates a 3D scan of the patient’s foot to get a complete volumetric representation that helps them identify problem areas. From there, the team creates a custom design for the patient that is then sent to a 3D printer.
The foray into 3D-printed insoles represents a significant leap forward in innovation. Until now, custom insoles for diabetic patients were constructed by hand and only had varying degrees of success in relieving pain.While the 3D-printing technology is currently being used to treat patients with advanced-stage diabetes, it could have far-reaching application for athletes as well. Particularly in runners who may be prone to foot injuries, 3D-printed polyurethane insoles could help support a healthier running stride.