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My Internship with ITERATE

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to undertake a 6-week industrial placement with ITERATE as part of my Masters degree. I was tasked with designing a medical or healthcare product which leveraged FDM 3D printing, which lends itself to mass-customisation and batch production. This project was based upon the growing market trend of bespoke 3D printed medical devices.

During the initial research phase, 3D printed casts for lower-arm fractures were observed. These have the potential to drastically reduce many of the complications surrounding the wearing of casts (including: odours, skin complications and ergonomic issues). However, further research lead to the discovery of two key prevailing issues:

  • Reports were observed highlighting hygiene-related issues
  • Effective therapy cannot be implemented whilst the cast is applied to the patient (approx. 6 weeks post-fracture)

Although two therapy-embedded casts were discovered (one integrating a low-intensity pulsed ultrasound system and the other incorporating a TENS therapy unit; further research into these technologies highlighted their unsuitability for the home-treatment of lower-arm fractures. Secondary research (evaluating various credible reports) and primary research (attendance of events, including Med-Tech Expo with ITERATE) lead to the realisation that near-infrared light therapy would be a more effective and a cost-efficient home-therapy technology.

The visit to Med-Tech (UK’s leading medical technology and innovation show) with ITERATE gave me a valuable insight into the design industry, especially in-relation to the the medical sector, it also allowed me to carry out effective primary research, which lead to the discovery of an exciting, new antibacterial and antimicrobial FDM-printing filament called Copper3D. It became clear that Copper3D is highly suited to 3D-printed cast production, the company (in collaboration with Ultimaker) sponsored my project, giving me free filament and giving my university an Ultimaker S5! Without ITERATE’s support and encouragement throughout this project I would never have been able to visit such an exciting event and gain such knowledge (their support certainly didn’t stop there!)

After a concept design phase, I developed and prototyped several therapy-embedded (antibacterial) casts. The development of the product was informed by:

  • Weekly group design reviews with ITERATE
  • A workshop with Autodesk’s Paul Sohi who gave me valuable insights in to 3D printed cast production methods using Fusion360
  • A visit to a 3D scanning (medical sector ) conference
  • Various testing methods including usability studies and focus groups

The final development consisted of three parts: two near-infrared light therapy modules with user-feedback interfaces; the cast itself; a plug (a design feature that covers the slot where the modules attach to the cast for therapy sessions); and a smart base unit, which informs the user on optimal therapy times. A repeatable production process for the cast and an overall logistics process was also developed.

I cannot express how supportive and encouraging ITERATE have been throughout the project. The placement gave me invaluable insights in to the design industry, and I was very impressed with the whole team and the way they work. 10/10 would certainly recommend ITERATE!