The digitization of orthopedic technology not only improves the properties, appearance, and availability of the assistive devices. It also simplifies and improves the orthopedic technician workflow: when they design a digital prosthetic, they no longer need to manually try different materials and create molds, which require several labor-intensive adaptations to fit the needs and dimensions of the patient. Instead, the technicians can create, modify, and save the assistive devices digitally as a file on the computer. If needed, devices can be replicated with accuracy and used as a template.
Digitization also promotes work specialization in orthopedic technology. While an orthopedic technician specializes in customer service, takes measurements, and gives advice, other employees can focus on technology or design and use the measurement data to create the assistive device.
"I believe the future of orthopedic technology is fully digital. Traditional craftsmanship will switch over to newer technologies – and embrace tools like computer-aided design (CAD)," says Rockenbauer.
Somewhere down the road, this will not just change individual work steps, but is going to transform the entire industry if the models are sent to the manufacturer or a central manufacturing company for further processing or production. This division of labor and separation of tasks is smart because not all companies can currently facilitate full digital operation, and the requisite equipment and know-how are also not yet broadly available.
But that could quickly change because "3D scanners will become extremely easy to use. I think that step-by-step we will make the process of 3D scanning easier and more and more useful to people in each area," Vakulenko predicts.