As you know, 3D printing is very popular in the medical field, with more and more attention being paid to the production of orthotics and prostheses. Thanks to additive manufacturing, these can be fully customized to each patient’s morphology – and we’re not limited to humans. In fact, it is also used for animals. This also results in great advantages: simplification of the various stages of the manufacturing process, adaptation to individual medical needs, etc. The Berlin start-up Think3DDD has recognized these advantages and has been dedicated to the production of orthoses for animals from the 3D printer since 2018. durable, economical and personalized. We caught up with Tino Jacobi, founder and director of Think3DDD, to learn more about this young company.
3DN: Can you introduce yourself and Think3DDD?
I’ve been interested in new technologies and their potential for interdisciplinary use for a long time. I first came across 3D printing during my bachelor’s degree, majoring in computer science and chemistry. I built several replacement parts and learning models for the Lise Meitner Center for Higher Education. What I particularly like about 3D technologies is their versatility, the large selection of materials, the material-saving production and the flexible customization options. When the 3D scanning process is skillfully combined with intelligent automated software and innovative materials, it is possible to create innovative and unique products. Because I am fascinated by the sheer infinite possibilities of 3D technologies, I have turned my hobby into my job.
Together with Leonardo Lauer I founded Think3DDD as a 3D printing service provider. We mainly focus on spare parts that are no longer produced, such as B. for old cars, small series and models for research institutes. This gives us an exciting insight into the most diverse research and developments. We not only take care of the production, but also the design of the models and advice on materials. Think3DDD has also developed more and more of its own products. In addition to 3D services, we now also offer individual 3D printed orthoses for humans and animals, masks and antimicrobial door handles. Our range of products is constantly expanding, and the most important thing for us is to develop our products with respect for the user and the environment.
3DN: How did the idea for Think3DDD come about?
The idea for individual animal healing cuffs was born directly from a dog patient. Murphy, the mixed-breed dog of our 3D printing materials partner at the time, broke his leg when he bit his hindquarters. The vet then put a bandage on him. Unfortunately, this was not supportive enough and quickly caused irritation and inflammation. We clearly saw Murphy struggle with the association. You should not take the risk of an operation, especially since a simple fracture could also heal on its own. This is how our first product, the VET ortho, came about. We were particularly fascinated by the fact that Murphy suddenly walked with our orthosis as if he had no broken bones. The inflammation subsided and the fracture healed fairly quickly on its own. Based on this experience, we are always looking for more and more suitable technologies and materials for our orthoses. So far we have mainly dealt with dogs and cats. As in humans, typical treatable clinical pictures are fractures, sprains, arthrosis and chronic gait disorders. In particularly difficult cases, such as broken joints, torn ligaments or severe bone fractures, our orthosis can also be used as support after an operation. We have also made individual prostheses.
3DN: How does the creation of VET Orthi work?
The whole process of this custom splint can be divided into 3 steps. First, the part of the body to be treated is scanned. To do this, it is wrapped in patterned adhesive strips. Using any smartphone, the veterinarian or pet owner records a 360-degree video of the body part. Our software automatically calculates the three-dimensional digital image from the video. In a second step, we adjust the VET ortho to the image using a semi-automated CAD program we developed. In doing so, we take into account, among other things, the information provided by the veterinarian on the type of support required. For example, should the orthosis be very stable or more flexible and where should it be protected against swelling? In addition, all of our models are optimized for the simplest 3D printing processes. This means that no print media is required, which saves material and production time. Finally, the digital model is made in the 3D printer from recyclable or compostable semi-flexible material. After minor modifications, the VET orthosis can be worn directly by the animal patient. The main advantage over conventional orthoses is the very good ventilation of the coat and skin, which prevents skin irritation and inflammation. The suspenders are also very lightweight and easy to clean. Thanks to these and other advantages, most of our animal patients accept our support measure very quickly. And should a VET orthosis be bitten, it can be easily replicated using a 3D printer.
3DN: What are Think3DDD’s future projects?
On the one hand, we are expanding our product range, especially in the field of veterinary medicine. As a result, our VET ortho products are becoming more and more complex due to flexible and free joints. This allows us to treat animals with more complicated cases. In addition, we continue to work on automation in order to manufacture our veterinary products even faster and independent of location. In addition, an online accessible system is being developed that will make the 3D printing service affordable for small jobs using standard materials. Targeted automation can, for example, make pure 3D printing orders from private individuals more cost-effective. However, our biggest current project is the creation of 3D Medico. Here we develop a coordinated and intuitive adjustment and production system for orthopedic and rehabilitation technicians. It is also possible to later expand it to other healthcare professions. This means that our orthoses, prostheses and individual orthopedic insoles can be adjusted and manufactured digitally and decentrally in any specialist company on site according to a doctor’s prescription. We offer 3D scanning using smartphone videos, adaptation using intuitive 3D CAD software, and production using the simplest 3D printing processes and recyclable materials. We have already developed the so-called Orthimale as a hand orthosis as an end product. The vision of this project is to be able to offer everyone treatment that is adapted to everyday life with individual and durable orthoses!
3DN: A final word for our readers?
As an interdisciplinary, young and international team, we are always looking for further colleagues and team members. So if you are a user of orthopedic devices or a (young) researcher interested in an exchange, do not hesitate to contact us or follow us on LinkedIn. If you are looking for an internship, a bachelor or master thesis or a job, our doors are open to you. Do not hesitate to consult our job page to find suitable offers or to send your unsolicited application. We offer our trainees equal integration into the team and a lot of practical experience, with the possibility of long-term cooperation. Finally, a word of advice: if you have the opportunity to turn your hobby into a career, take it! You will not regret it !
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*Cover photo credit: Think3DDD
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