How 3D Printing Is Shaping the Future of Diabetic Foot Care
For years, digitized foot measurements and “maps” have enabled orthopedic shoemakers to make customized shoe insoles for those who suffer from diabetes. And now, German researchers are taking digitization one step further, tying in digital foot-mapping with 3D printing technology to produce insoles that are even more accurate – and much less costly to produce.
Named LAUF, a German acronym for “laser-assisted construction of customized footwear,” the technology initiative is being pioneered by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research and researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Mechanics of Materials IWM. Researchers from these agencies are joining with industry partners to refine technology that would enable orthopedic labs to “completely digitalize” the insole production process, from start to finish.
Says IWM researcher Dr. Tobias Ziegler,”Digital foot mapping is already common practice. Using newly developed software, the orthopedic shoemaker can design an insole for an individual patient and can print out the result on a 3D printer.”
Relieving Pressure Points
Diabetic foot ulcers are a serious complication of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, caused by nerve damage and circulation problems that interfere with the normal healing process. While some ulcers can be caused by cuts or other injuries from falls or accidents, others form as a result of pressure points from ill-fitting shoes, gait patterns or foot shape. In a healthy foot, these pressure points cause painful sensations – warning signals that let you know an injury is occurring. But in diabetes, nerve damage can prevent those signals from being felt, increasing the likelihood a pressure point will develop into a diabetic ulcer over time.
The insoles are made of a thermoplastic polyurethane material that enables both soft and rigid elements to be incorporated into a single insole. Currently, the technology is being evaluated using a multi-stage process to optimize printing and production, with initial prototypes undergoing rigorous testing to ensure the insoles are effective, comfortable and long-lasting. Although the technology is still in the testing stages, researchers expect the final product to become available to orthopedic technicians within a couple of years.
Pioneering Diabetic Foot Care in Los Angeles
As a leader in diabetic foot care, Dr. Felix Sigal helps men and women from throughout the greater Los Angeles area get the care they need to prevent diabetic foot-related complications, including dangerous foot ulcers. Dr. Sigal is an active clinical researcher, helping patients at the Foot & Ankle Clinic gain access to cutting-edge research and novel treatment options so they can enjoy better health and greater peace of mind. If you have diabetes, seeing a podiatrist regularly is critically important for avoiding foot ulcers and reducing related risks. To learn more about diabetic foot care or ongoing clinical trials, or to schedule an exam and consultation, call the Foot & Ankle Clinic at 213-365-0793 today.