Foot orthoses: the digital revolution making great strides.

13 July 2020

As announced during the User Days 2020, Arkad, the latest innovation by Rodin4D is marching along. Starting soon, the entire orthopaedic industry will have access to its powerful digital tools for 3D measurement, rectification and manufacturing.

“It is a response to the demands of our orthopaedic technician clients”, explains Lucile, head of the Arkad project and an orthopaedic technician herself. “Arkad is a good complement to their Rodin toolkit; enables them to make foot orthoses for patients, for a complete solution covering the full range of their professional activity. It is also compatible with all the Rodin4D tools they have: scanning and manufacturing equipment.”

With the launch of Arkad, Rodin4D responds to the needs of the broader community of orthopaedic technicians, that includes foot orthosis specialists: podiatrists, chiropodists, etc., professionals who frequently have a variety of machines. “Not a piece of cake” as Lucile recognizes. “For example, they have pressure platforms, podoscopes and mechanized systems to manufacture foot orthoses. We chose to develop open software, compatible with all the other devices they may already work with.”

Arkad, a tool designed for foot orthosis specialists

Our entire R+D team mobilized to perfect an innovative solution that adapts to the professional environment of podiatrists. For this, Lucile, Charlotte, Pauline, Thibaut and Hichem attended conferences and events to learn about expectations and new trends. They also visited professional offices. “In the meetings we saw numerous technologies, many of which were closed systems that did not communicate with other systems or did not fit the reality of the profession. Which is why we wanted to propose an open and compatible solution”, notes Hichem, an IT developer. Charlotte, an engineer, confirms this: “We learned so much from the information exchanges with professionals out there in the field. And we dedicated the time necessary to learn more of the challenges they face, the stages of orthotics manufacture and the different materials used. We translated what we learned into ergonomic responses that can be used by any professional.”

CAD/CAM for foot orthoses

The Arkad solution incorporates the entire manufacturing chain of foot orthoses: from data acquisition with a 3D scanner, to rectification and production with milling, and 3D printing. Its open design enables professionals to import all results from different equipment to the software and do digital rectifications. All in a manner that is compliant with the GDPR and the protection of health data. Thibaut, an engineer: “With their Arkad file, they can now reproduce existing models, which had not been possible until now, or, touch up an orthotic while saving the base.”

A material specialist, Thibaut has done detailed studies of the different hardnesses used by podiatrists. “In 3D printing, we can´t work with foam. So, we needed to find another material that had the combination of flexibility, durability, elasticity, hardness and compressibility needed to manufacture the 4 types of foot orthoses: individual elements, thermoformed, monoblock and proprioception.”

The research served to homologate two manufacturing solutions for foot orthoses that are as efficient as traditional solutions:

Fused deposition modelling (FDM) thanks to a flexible material (TPU) to manufacture the orthoses in 3D. Thibaut notes: “The FDM manufacturing technique is capable of continuous reproduction of a wide range of Shore hardnesses, from values of approximately 20 up to 94 on the Shore A scale. Highly satisfactory results.”

– We also explored powder bed fusion manufacturing with a rigid material (PA12), that allows thickness variations to modulate rigidity and to make 2D structures to add even more flexibility.

As Lucile says she hoped, these innovative technologies open up new possibilities for the manufacturing of foot orthoses. “First, we will approach the French podiatry market, which is very demanding, and will accompany professionals during the transition. Later, we will deploy the 3D printing. Those who are equipped will set the pace, because they will save time with the model reproduction capacity.”

For the team, Arkad´s ambition is based on the same foundations as the other solutions created by Rodin4D. “Since its establishment, Rodin4D has known how to develop specific professional solutions. Our work in R+D should make the lives of professionals easier, without any negative impact, and offer them new possibilities, simply put. Our strong point is that we are a small agile team, that manages our own development projects end-to-end, and, above all, listens to professionals. The closeness with them is what steers our research and makes our solutions more accessible.”

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