How a bespoke, 3D printed part changed one customer’s life
When Laser Lines’ customer Bluefrog Design was asked to help a patient’s long-term skin condition, it succeeded where a string of doctors and specialists had failed.
“The patient suffers from Paresthesia, which in his case produces a prickling feeling on his chest, especially when clothes rub against it,” says Laser Lines’ product specialist, Jane Gibbons. “Bluefrog Design built a part that prevented his clothes from touching his body.”
Taking accurate measurements
As Bluefrog Design’s director Chris Samwell explains. “We 3D-scanned the patient’s body, and identified the parts from which we could hang a support to keep his clothes away from his skin.”
By scanning rather than measuring, the Bluefrog team avoided touching the patient’s body, which would have risked further irritation, while capturing precise measurements to use as a base when designing the part using Solidworks 3D CAD.
“What we produced was entirely bespoke, cost-effective and time efficient” Samwell says. “The result followed the contours of the patient’s body, which we couldn’t have done using any other method: we’d have ended up with a very generalised part, not much different to putting a dustbin lid on his chest.”
The right materials for the job
The part was printed using medical-grade ABS Plus, and hung from the patient where he suffered the least irritation. “As you can appreciate, we could have printed it in any one of a host of materials, thanks to our relationship with Laser Lines, and using ABS Plus for this initial print doesn’t preclude us from switching in the future,” Samwell says.
Gibbons describes the result as “a lightweight cage, similar to the rib protectors you’d use for go-karting,” and, again, this weight-saving was largely thanks to the production process itself.
“The design is lattice-based so it’s light, and we’re saving up to 60% of the material that traditional production methods would consume,” Samwell says. “That also gives ventilation to keep the patient cool: you have an air gap, so air can flow through it between the clothes and the body.”
A sign of the times
Bluefrog Design has been a Laser Lines client for nine years. “It started with a Prodigy,” Gibbons recalls. “Then a Dimension and a Fortus 250. Now it’s looking at an F370 and considering a PolyJet machine for a project creating injection mould tools, so Laser Lines is helping it to sell the Fortus 250 second hand.”
“Keeping abreast of developments is important to us,” Samwell explains. “We’re a progressive company, but Laser Lines has been very good, always advising us if what we’re already running is worth hanging on to a while longer. It has saved us a lot of money over the years.”
Samwell talks of a synergy between the two firms, and how Bluefrog Design’s loyalty has been repaid many times. “Laser Lines always responds quickly,” he says, “and if we have an issue with a build and we’re up against a deadline it will even build the part for us. Service and maintenance really are second to none.”
A 3D-focused company
It’s not surprising that 3D printing is key to Bluefrog Design’s core business. As an industrial and product design consultancy, it often designs, prototypes and produces short run, high value products. Frequently technical, they are the kind of thing that traditional processes can’t produce economically.
“We might make ten of something for one customer, then find another who wants something similar, but different,” Samwell says. “In that case, we take the 3D CAD file, tweak it, then manufacture, assemble and finish a variant on the original product. It would be technically challenging to do the same with injection mould tooling or parts as it requires costly tooling modifications.”
Having produced one bespoke part for a specific patient, Bluefrog Design now has the experience, the start-point CAD files and, thanks to its relationship with Laser Lines, the printers and materials it needs to iterate for anyone else suffering a similar condition.
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