Accelerating stroke rehabilitation thanks to a customized 3D printed orthotic swimming fin

Two industrial designers from Barcelona have created a swimming fin to accelerate the rehabilitation of Pedro, a 16-year-old boy who suffered a stroke, which paralyzed half part of his body.

Pedro is a sixteen years old guy from Barcelona who loves sports. In August 2012 he suffered a stroke, a left ganglion basal hemorrhage, which paralysed half part of his body. After a long period of rehabilitation, Pedro recovered a great part of the mobility, except in his right hand, affected by spasticity. Spasticity is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes an increase of the muscular tone hindering totally or partially the movement of the affected muscles.

The beginning of the project

In July 2016, Pedro started a new sports project at the Club de Natació l’Hospitalet, a swimming club that had just created an adapted swimming section.

Due to the spasticity, Pedro used to have difficulties positioning properly his hand when swimming. To find a solution, his coach Àlex Agut and the president of the swimming club Jordi Lorca, contacted with the UPC’s (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) CIM centre, a prestigious university center in Barcelona known for its Masters and Postgraduate studies. The students of the Master’s degree in Design and Engineering in Product Development Marc Roca and Iñigo Martínez-Ayo were selected to solve the challenge by creating a new personalized hand swimming fin for him.

The challenge of designing a customized product

The project was focused on 3D printing technology (FFF), for his advantages when producing. A design process has to pass through different stages until finished. Normally in the stages of product development, prototyping and testing is where more time and money is spent. Before launching a product, this has to be used and improved by using prototypes. In traditional industry, the time of making those prototypes is too long and some companies just make a few versions of the product affecting the final result. The fewer prototypes, the more possibility of errors in the final product.

The advantage of 3d printing in short time projects

Nowadays, thanks to the 3D printing technology, companies and professionals are able to carry out a more efficient product development, not just by making more prototypes in less time, but also making them with materials that have very similar properties to those that will have the commercialized product.

BCN3D Sigma R17 Swimming Fin for stroke rehabilitation

Marc and Iñigo, by using the BCN3D Sigma 3D printer, developed the product for Pedro in less than four weeks. During this time they made ten functional prototypes trying different shapes and materials with a budget of 100 €. After running out different test, they decided to manufacture the swimming fin in Nylon, an extensively used material for its unique mechanical and chemical properties. Thanks to characteristics like durability, flexibility and resistance to corrosion, Nylon is ideal for multiple applications in the 3D printing field, like end-use parts or custom jigs and fixtures.

To print the part in Nylon correctly, they used PVA material as a support material in the second extruder of the BCN3D Sigma. This filament is a water soluble polymer, ideal to work as support material for printing complex geometries, large overhangs or intricate cavities. PVA supports allow achieving better surface quality and to orientate the part to get better mechanical properties.

3D printed fin for stroke rehabilitation

The results

Thanks to the immediacy that 3D printing offers, Pedro had his personalized 3D printed swimming fin in a very short period, generating, among others, the following advantages:

  • Improvement in body position, facilitating stroke and movement.
  • An increase of the musculature in the upper part of the body.
  • Due to the improvement in the swimming position, Pedro spent more time in the pool without getting tired. That improved muscle tone throughout the body.

Pedro’s case is a great example of the benefits that 3D printing offers in projects that require the creation of several prototypes in order to see how they fit in the patient.

Accelerating creative process through 3D printing at IED Barcelona

Istituto  Europeo di Design uses their BCN3D Sigma 3D printers for prototyping and functional testing, speeding up students creative process and turning conceptual designs into reality

IED, the Istituto Europeo di Design, is an international network of schools with eleven seats worldwide specialized in training, development and research in the disciplines of Management, Fashion, Design and Visual Communication. During this last year they have implemented 3D printing technologies at their facilities.

Why 3D printing is useful for the students?

“The IED philosophy is built using a methodology based on learning by doing. Therefore, the rapid prototyping part becomes very important. Specially, in the design discipline thanks to the new technologies that we have within reach, rapid prototyping allows accelerating creative processes. Students, during the design process, can quickly validate and test ideas through 3D printed models.” explains Raffaella Perrone, IED Barcelona Design Managing Director.

Prototyping a concept car for the 2035 year

One of the projects done with the BCN3D Sigma 3D printers during this last year is a concept car done by Miguel Ángel, Alberto Martínez y Joan Franc. The brief consisted in designing the mobility of the future, specifically for the year 2035. The idea was to answer the question about how to maintain the pleasure of driving in the future.

Concept_Car-3D_printing_BCN3D_Sigma

Concept car prototype manufactured with the BCN3D Sigma

“The challenge of the project was to reproduce the 3D model designed in the computer as closely as possible. In order to do so, we have used the best technology in the market. 3D printing technology has allowed us to reproduce the complex and organic shapes that we had designed. This was possible thanks to the BCN3D Sigma 3D printer.” says Miguel Ángel.

Concept car printed with the Sigma

Conceptual car assembly process

IED Barcelona, by using 3D printing technologies, clearly demonstrates how 3D printing can revolutionize the phases of product development. Are you interested to find out what BCN3D Technologies can do for your business? Contact us filling out the form below, we love hearing from you!