Designing a 3D Printed Brace to Combat Hip Osteoarthritis

By Shreya Sivakumar
Intermediate Category (Grades 9-10)
Innovation | Biology, Engineering and Computer Science

The 3D printed brace enclosed around the upper portion of the leg of a patient undergoing hip pain abducts the femur away from the acetabulum to unload stress. The printing material is polypropylene, which is strong but flexible with a tensile strength of approximately 3.3 x 107 Pa. Using this soft plastic will allow for user comfort and movement. For testing and demonstration purposes, the device is designed for only the left hip joint. Wrapping around the upper left leg reduces pressure on the specific area of injury located on the hip joint.

When a lever on the exterior section of the left hip joint is pulled, the femur is abducted from the hip joint. This motion occurs to prevent further cartilage damage, which is caused by rubbing of the bones. The brace is designed to be customizable and adjustable for all patients. Due to 3D printing, certain design dimensions can be modified to patient specifications, making the device compatible for patients of varying height and weight.

A specially designed test-jig will assess the medical device’s performance. The jig simulates a hip joint with moderate osteoarthritis. It will replicate the tensile force and appearance of the damaged joint. Using a test jig allows focus on a specific area and can ensure that the results are consistent. Furthermore, by modelling the area of interest, we avoid potential patient injuries while testing. Using a jig follows scientific ethics because testing is consistent and the results are unbiased. Devices tested on human volunteers can lead to common pseudoscientific frameworks resulting in poor research trials.

Due to the current COVID-19 situation closing all accessible labs, 3D printing of the brace wasn’t possible. Therefore, I have created the brace from reusable household materials as well as a 3D model of the brace using SolidWorks.

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