We are one month into 2023! How has your podiatry practice been doing? Are there any new treatments or equipment you are considering implementing to better treat your patients?
To start off the new year, we want to share some of the most exciting new technologies we’ve seen in the custom orthotics and braces world. These new orthotic solutions for podiatrists may help you prescribe orthotics more easily or with better results.
New iPhone 3D Scanning
There’s a new 3D Scanner in town, and you may already have one in your pocket! Over the last few years there has been a rise of facial recognition technology. The same facial recognition technology used to unlock your iPhone is now able to take 3D scans of a patient’s foot. This “digital cast” is then used in fabricating custom orthotics and braces.
Digital casting (3D foot scanning) completely changes the playing field when it comes to casting for orthotics. There are many advantages to using digital scans compared to traditional plaster and foam impression casting methods. With increased accuracy, faster turnaround time, and less mess, it’s no wonder that 90% of our doctors use foot scanner technology to order orthotics.
The biggest disadvantage to currently available 3D scanners is the need to purchase extra hardware. Podiatrists have to purchase bulky computer 3D scanners or the portable, but expensive Structure scanner attachment for the iPad. With facial scanning technology, there is no need for external equipment. Almost all the recent iPhones and iPad Pro tablets have this built-in now.
We’ve recently upgraded our Forward Motion App to be compatible with Apple TrueDepth Camera! Now available for all iPhones and iPad pros with facial recognition technology, no extra hardware required. Simply use your iPhone or iPadPro (trueDepth required) to scan the feet using and prescribe custom orthotics. Download the app from the App store and contact us if you have any questions.
3D Printing has been around for a few years. The main disadvantages of 3D print orthoses were the long manufacturing times, high costs, and weak materials that did not last very long. Although not exactly “new”, this orthotic technology has gone through a few upgrades recently.
New printing techniques such as laser sintering combined with better materials that are lighter and more durable have improved the orthotic printing process. Large companies like Hewlett Packard are contributing with industrial 3D printers for increased production rates.
An advantage of 3D printing is that no human labor is required to form the shells because they can be printed directly into the shape of the patient’s foot. When the orthotic is printed directly, it saves a few of the steps of the manufacturing process such as milling out the foot cast, molding the shell to the positive cast, and then cutting/grinding the orthotic shells. This makes 3D print orthotics very accurate and waste a lot less materials during the making of.
With the recent improvements making 3D print orthotics faster, cheaper and longer lasting, this technology is quickly becoming a viable alternative. In the future, this may be the go-to when it comes to manufacturing custom orthotics.
Pressure Mapping Technology
Measuring pressure on the foot provides important information that is useful to help podiatrists analyze and diagnose patients. Pressure mat equipment is widely available to analyze pressure during resting calcaneal stance. However, measuring pressure throughout the gait cycle is a challenge that podiatrists run into.
There is now new sensor technology available that can be put into patient shoes. These sensors can measure plantar pressure at each stage of the gait cycle as the patient walks and transmit the findings. Podiatrists can use this information to determine specific areas to offload the foot or where to add accommodations on the orthotic.
Originally used mainly by research labs, these in-shoe sensors are usually priced at a premium. As alternative hardware becomes available, prices are coming down. We expect that this sensor technology will soon be affordable enough to use in your podiatry practice.
So there you have it, some of custom orthotic technologies for you to consider implementing into your practice! These may help you better diagnose patients and prescribe custom orthotics and AFO braces. If you know of something interesting that’s not on this list, please let us know!
At Forward Motion, we pride ourselves in being on the cutting edge when it comes to orthotic technologies. Our innovative technologies combined with our quality materials and customer success team ensure that we provide you the best service possible. We work together with you to create custom orthotics that your patients will love. Contact us today for more information.