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[CASE STUDY] 3D printed protective sport mask for the facial massif

The healthcare sector, and particularly the orthopedic one, is characterised by manufacturing processes which go through the phases of acquisition by 3D scanning, device CAD design and additive manufacturing, carrying out research on materials and quality control in the few phases of production they need.

3D technologies can prove to be a very useful tool for the manufacture of a wide range of patient-tailored orthopedic devices, thanks to their accuracy and ease of use.

Digital manufacturing systems can be used for the realization of all orthopedic medical devices, and the advantage for laboratories in adopting these technologies translates into a confirmation of production efficiency. In the wide spectrum of devices an orthopedic laboratory deals with, even those positioned in marginal areas such as sports, can be effectively included within a digital and additive production process.

An example is the protective sport mask for the facial massif.

This is usually prescribed in the presence of blunt or injurious trauma such as fractures of the nasal septum or cheekbone, and as a prevention of possible trauma for sports such as basketball, football or boxing.

By now, face sport masks are available in different sizes and brands with respect to a standardization process, or through traditional manufacturing processes that require the use of multiple materials and tools with different steps.

The advantages of introducing a completely digital workflow are associated, above all, with personalization based on the subject's wishes and how the device can be perfectly adapted to the patient's facial morphology.

The tailor-made design for the athlete is particularly useful when the device is a daily accessory for carrying out sport activity.

It is made through a first phase of acquisition of the splanchnocranium with the use of a 3D scanner, then the design is carried out using CAD modeling by covering the affected areas of the face and cheekbones.

The use of 3D printing for manufacturing guarantees an entire automated and versatile process for the range of materials that can be used.

The main phases and characteristics of the most suitable technologies can be easily identified.


1. 1. Face 3D Scan

For the scanning phase it is advisable to use a professional scanner, such as those of the Shining3D EinScan range. The main features which make them widely valid relate to the fact that they are manual and lightweight scanners, with high accuracy and equipped with artificial recognition technology of the type of scan (quick scan mode and standard scan depending on the case being treated).



Especially for this application, it is interesting the possibility of using the facial scan mode able to also capture hair. It is also important that they have multiple export formats of scan files .OBJ, .STL, .3MF adaptable to different design modes. Further features that the scanning processing software can be equipped with are the possibility of making changes on the mesh, closing it, or performing alignment operations of multiple scanned parts.



2. 2. Design with CAD software

The design phase is simple, fast and adaptable to any CAD modeling software, ensuring a completely open system for the operator.



It may also be necessary to use only software that work on meshes, highlighting and separating the affected facial areas, to subsequently make the necessary design changes, such as the holes for the introduction of elastic bands for wearability, areas for inserting material contact with the injured part and further absorption of stresses and loads. It is very important to leave ample space during this phase to ensure the best visibility for the game.



3. 3. 3D Printing and Materials

The use of manufacturing methods, such as additive manufacturing, greatly reduces the time involving the operator during operating phases compared to traditional manual techniques. Once you have chosen the most suitable printing methods and materials, you can focus on the next activity, as the machine proceeds in complete autonomy. Many 3D printers are also equipped with a cloud that allows remote booting and allows multiple users to use the machine as needed. Starting from easy-to-use and low-cost FDM technologies, it is possible to streamline the main manufacturing phases.



Professional FDM printers, such as those of Ultimaker brand, offer a 360 ° printing service thanks to high resolution, control and a wide range of processable filaments, from standard to loaded ones.

Traditional manufacturing methods use hard plastics, materials such as polycarbonate or carbon fiber. What you need to achieve is a lightweight and durable protective device that effectively absorbs shocks. A good part of the materials suitable for FDM technology can guarantee the required properties: materials such as Polypropylene or Carbon Fiber, coupled with soft lining materials such as EVA to promote comfort and stability.

There are many possibilities and the research in the Additive field continues to evolve towards the definition of advanced and performing products.