Edited by Elizabeth Engler Modic

It took Yann Paitel, founder of OSIC Carbone (Orthopedic Solutions, Innovative Concept) eight years to master a range of technologies and develop proprietary methodologies that allow the subsidiary of Orthopédie Bontoux to deliver customized foam orthoses to medical providers in just 12 hours. Now, he is promising to deliver these same capabilities to medical service providers and medical products manufacturers internationally in 10 weeks.

Founded in 2008 to explore new digital and robotics technologies that could be employed to reduce lead times and manufacturing costs, the parent company has produced orthotics using labor intensive, time consuming conventional carbon fiber composite manufacturing techniques.

That work led to strategic partnerships with technology providers which OSIC continues to leverage to extend its offerings. Among the most significant of these was the relationship it developed with Robotmaster and Mastercam software from CNC Software Inc., Tolland, Connecticut, to develop its proprietary robot controls and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) capabilities.

Robotic solution

The traditional approach to creating orthotic devices uses plaster strips to make a cast of the body regions and limbs under consideration. The cast is cut away and further refined using files and specialized manual tools. This physical model can then be measured and modeled digitally to create a computer-aided design (CAD) file that serves as the basis for machining the product or mold for making carbon fiber parts.

Paitel and his team developed a modeling solution that can capture a wide range of inputs – hand measurements, photos, X-ray images, body scans – and semi-automatically transform them into the model for an orthopedic appliance within the Solidworks CAD environment. Once this stage in the custom orthotic design workflow was proven, OSIC turned to its own manufacturing processes.

With complex, deeply recessed geometries and a wide range of sizes, Paitel chose a 6-axis, arm-style robot equipped with a milling head and a long cutter to manufacture the orthotic appliances. After studying the marketplace and several trials, OSIC selected Mastercam CAD/CAM software and Robotmaster. Mastercam can seamlessly import and work file types that surgeons and orthotists were likely to send OSIC for manufacturing their custom devices.

Optimized carving robots

Robotmaster quickly generates programs off-line, generating robot control code directly from Mastercam to produce robot trajectories accurately, without the need to teach points. OSIC has developed robot-control and CNC-cutting strategies that reduce programming time and one-off manufacturing cycles.

All parts are carved using a single long cutter, optimized to cut efficiently while reaching all areas of the part. Using-single tool means manufacturing cycles do not have to be interrupted for tool changes. Productivity is further improved by integrating robotic CNC machining programs with additional work stations, allowing a series of parts to be programmed, simulated, and posted to the robot for continuous single-setup manufacturing.

Paitel says, “The robot can carve the entire piece in one setup with three or four rotations around the part. Once it is finished, it moves directly to the new piece. This maximizes spindle uptime because there is no waiting for the next part to be set up. This utility also makes it possible for additional pieces to be carved with the robot unattended at the end of the workday.”

OSIC uses two robots for manufacturing orthotics from blocks of rigid or soft foam, up to 2m high. On a typical day, the company ships about 25 of these appliances to its customers on a 12-hour turnaround basis. Since robotic manufacturing was instituted in 2008, OSIC has produced approximately 2,000 custom orthotics each year. In eight years, more than 18,000 have been delivered to orthopedic service providers and their patients.

Further expansions

Paitel says that OSIC Carbone’s robotic processes give designers flexibility for creating geometrically complex orthotics that give patients greater support in places where it is most needed. The foam designs are more efficient to manufacture than carbon fiber devices.

To get to the point where his company can efficiently manufacture custom orthotics, Paitel has modeled the made-to-measure delivery process from start to finish and has introduced digital technology enhancements along the way. For the past three years, his company has been offering these technology modules as separate pieces to customers who would most benefit from them.

The company’s scanning solutions use software and hardware to automate the geometric data collection from the patient. A Solidworks interface automates the process of creating specific types of orthotic and prosthetic devices. Proprietary utilities within Mastercam and Robotmaster can automatically generate cutting programs based on the model.

Paitel says that OSIC Carbone is also engaged in a number of R&D projects that will further advance its orthotic and prosthetic manufacturing capabilities. These will also be offered to its customers once they become commercially viable.

CNC Software Inc. (Mastercam)
www.mastercam.com

Dassault Systèmes
www.solidworks.com

OSIC Carbone
www.osic-carbone.com

Robotmaster
www.robotmaster.com