A 3D modeling system that applies haptic technology recently made quite an impression at a conference on Advanced Digital Technology for Head and Reconstruction. Developed by SensAble Technologies, the device enables the rapid and accurate production of custom body parts from soft-tissue implants for eye sockets to titanium dental inlays.
The FreeForm 3D modeling system allows technicians to sculpt custom body parts by touch. The haptic-enabled stylus allows the user to feel the implant or prosthesis and the patient’s skull or soft tissue as he or she designs the body part on screen. Medical teams can review the part electronically and instantly make refinements before exporting it for rapid prototyping or milling. Traditionally this was accomplished by carving models out of wax, clay, or gypsum, a laborious and often iterative process. One customer that used FreeForm technology to create an orbital implant was able to shave 30% off the amount of time it would ordinarily take to produce the eye socket. Plus, the patient had to suffer through fewer fitting visits.
Reconstructive modeling and prosthetics creation using the FreeForm system is offered as a commercial service at the National Centre for Product Design & Development Research at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, UK. (To learn more about this centre, see Bioscience Cluster Takes Root in Wales published in the January/February 2006 issue of European Medical Device Manufacturer.)
SensAble Technologies’ force-feedback products are used in a range of other applications including surgical simulations, R&D, and robotics. The company markets its haptic devices and developer toolkits to medical, dental, design, and manufacturing companies worldwide.Norbert Sparrow