|dc.description.abstract||The purpose of the Applied Research Masters was to investigate the role of Additive Manufacturing (AM) and digital technologies in the development of improved customised protection in sports equipment. Sporting injuries have become a major issue within today's health care sector with many injuries having long -term impacts and affecting health in later life. Poor body posture, caused by a sedentary lifestyle, was also identified as a major contributor in sports injuries.
Initial research established that the foot, as the foundation of the body, directly impacts on postural alignment and functional movement. Incorrect foot positioning causes instability, a key contributor to both upper and lower body injuries. The current solution for correcting poor foot posture are Foot Orthoses (FO). Preliminary research identified custom FO as a product area offering the greatest potential for exploring the range of possibilities provided by the application of AM and digital technologies.
The project was undertaken using a research through design approach. A review of the literature followed by key stakeholder interviews provided an understanding of the FO industry, digital technologies and AM techniques which led to the development of a focused design hypothesis.
It is possible to design a product which supports the correct alignment of the foot, while also allowing its natural behaviour and function within the gait cycle, therefore improving full body alignment, assisting in injury prevention and offering support during play and rehabilitation.
A combination of case studies, user trips and semi -structured interviews with medical practitioners within the field of physiotherapy, orthopaedics and podiatry provided insights into the current tools, techniques and processes involved in prescribing custom made FO devices. Finally, traditional design techniques were employed in the development of FO prototypes for additive manufacturing and subsequent design research evaluation. The overall research through design approach facilitated the investigation and evaluation of the integration of AM and digital technologies within the design, development and fabrication of customised FO.
Research findings show that current FO devices, produced using traditional fabrication methods, offer poor fit, limited movement and flexibility during sporting activities and provide inadequate support throughout the gait cycles associated with sporting activities.
The research programme identified and investigated numerous digital technologies and explored combinations most likely to advance and improve orthotic devices. The incorporation of digital technologies was found to offer many advantages over traditionally fabricated orthotic devices, and the project looked at how such technologies might help to improved fit; improve material selection; significantly reduce lead times; ensure cost –effectiveness; offer customer -focused solutions and enhance support and mechanical performance during sporting activities. The project also looked at how these digital technologies could be successfully integrated and implemented into existing medical practice for diagnosis, prescription and application.
The primary conclusion of the project is that existing integration of AM and digital technologies fail to exploit their full potential. The integration of AM and digital technologies can offer a more holistic approach in the diagnosis, prescription and application phase of FO. In the diagnosis phase, the implementation of digital technologies saves time, reduces waste and highlights key physical characteristics compared with traditional methods used by podiatrists. In the prescription phase, the scanned data assist in providing a more focused and tailored solution, improving overall fit and function. The use of multi-material AM techniques within the application phase broadened the range of material characteristics available and further assist the podiatrist, the fabricator and, in turn, the patient. In summary, the integration of multiple digital technologies ensured a more user-focused solution for the design, development and fabrication of customised orthotics.||en_US