3D printing is increasingly finding its place in the medical field with an increasing emphasis on the manufacture of orthoses and prostheses. This is partly because additive manufacturing allows everyone to be perfectly adapted to the morphology of a particular patient – including our animal friends. This brings great advantages: an immense simplification of the individual steps of the manufacturing process as well as the adaptation to individual medical needs. The Berlin start-up Think3DDD has also recognized these advantages and since 2018 has been involved, among other things, in the production of 3D printed orthoses for animals – durable, cost-effective and personalized. We caught up with Tino Jacobi, Founder and CEO of Think3DDD, to talk about his connection to additive manufacturing, the 3D printing process as well as future plans with his company.
3DN: Can you introduce yourself and Think3DD?
I have a longstanding interest in new technologies and their interdisciplinary applications. I came into contact with 3D printing for the first time during my baccalaureate with a specialization in computer science and chemistry. I used it to build several spare parts and educational models for the Lise Meitner secondary school. This was followed by several youth research projects.
What particularly excites me about 3D technologies is their versatility, high material selection, material-efficient manufacturing, and flexible customization options. If the 3D scanning method is intelligently combined with intelligent automated software and innovative materials, revolutionary and unique products can be created. Because I am fascinated by the almost infinite possibilities of 3D technologies, I have made my hobby my profession.
Together with Leonardo Lauer, I founded Think3DDD as a 3D printing service provider. We mainly focus on spare parts that are no longer manufactured, such as for classic cars, very small series and models for research facilities. As a result, we always get interesting information about a wide variety of research and development. In doing so, we do not always only take over production, but also model design and material advice. Think3DD is also increasingly developing its own products. We now offer custom 3D printed healing armbands for humans and animals, masks and antimicrobial door handles in addition to 3D services. Our product range is constantly expanding, the most important thing for us is to develop our products in a user-friendly and environmentally friendly way.
3DN: How did the idea for Think3DD come about? Can you cater specifically to your animal customers?
The idea for individual healing sleeves for animals was born directly from a canine patient. Murphy, the dog of our then cooperation partner for 3D printing materials, had broken his leg by biting his hind paw. He received a bandage from the vet. Unfortunately, this did not provide enough support and quickly led to skin irritation and inflammation. We could clearly see how Murphy was struggling with the bandage. The risk of surgery could not be taken, moreover the simple fracture could heal by itself. Therefore, our first orthi VET (the coin) was born.
What particularly fascinated us was that Murphy suddenly walked with our brace on like he didn’t have a fracture. The inflammation subsided and the fracture healed fairly quickly on its own. Based on this experience, we searched for more and more suitable technologies and materials for our orthoses. So far we have mainly treated dogs and cats. Sometimes there have been other requests from the animal and human sectors. Animals are usually treated by us on the front or hind leg. Typical clinical pictures that can be treated are similar to those in humans such as bone fractures, strains, osteoarthritis and chronic walking problems. In particularly difficult cases such as joint fractures, torn ligaments or severe bone fractures, our brace can also be used as a support after surgery. In addition, we have also made individual prostheses.
3DN: What is the process of creating VET orthi?
The whole process of this custom brace can be divided into 3 steps. First, the part of the body to be treated is scanned. For this purpose, the body part is wrapped with patterned adhesive bandages. Using any smartphone, the veterinarian or pet owner takes a 360 degree video of the body part. From the video, our software automatically calculates the digital three-dimensional image. In a second step, we adapt the orthi VET to the image using a semi-automatic CAD program that we have developed ourselves.
Among other things, we take into account the specifications of the veterinarian as to the type of support required. For example, if the orthosis should be very stable or rather somewhat flexible and where swelling should be protected. In addition, all of our models are optimized for the simplest 3D printing process. For example, no support structure is needed and material and production time are saved.
Finally, the digital model is made with a semi-flexible material that is recyclable or compostable in the 3D printer. After any minor post-treatment, the orthi VET can be worn directly by the animal patient. The advantage over conventional orthoses is primarily the very good ventilation of the coat and skin, which prevents skin irritation and inflammation. The weight of the braces is also very low and cleaning is easy. Most of our animal patients accept our supportive measure very quickly because of these and other benefits. And if ever an orthi VET should be bitten, it can easily be reproduced again in the 3D printer.
3DN: What are Think3DD’s future plans?
On the one hand, we are expanding our product range, particularly in veterinary medicine. This means that our orthi VET sleeves are becoming more and more complex with flexible and freely movable joints. This means that we can also treat animals with more complex cases.
We are also continuing to work on automation in order to manufacture our veterinary products even faster and more location-independently. Additionally, an online accessible system is being developed that will make 3D printing services affordable for small orders with standard materials. Through targeted automation, pure 3D print orders from private individuals, for example, can then also be made possible at low cost.
However, our biggest project right now is the 3D-Medico spin-off. Here we develop a coordinated and intuitive assembly and production system for orthopedic and rehabilitation technicians. Its subsequent extension to other health professionals is also possible. This will allow our orthoses, prostheses and individual insoles to be digitally fitted and manufactured on site at each specialist company in a way that meets medical standards. To this end, we offer 3D scanning via smartphone video, assembly via intuitive 3D CAD software, as well as manufacturing with the simplest 3D printing process and recyclable materials. As an end product, we have already developed the so-called Orthimale here as an orthosis for the hand area. The vision of this project is to be able to offer everyone a treatment adapted to daily use with individual orthoses in a sustainable way!
3DN: A last word for our readers?
As an interdisciplinary, young and international team, we are always looking for new collaborations and team members. So if you are an orthotic tool user or a (junior) researcher interested in an exchange, contact us or follow us on LinkedIn. If you are looking for an internship, a bachelor’s/master’s thesis or a job, our doors are open to you. Please take a look at our job page (only available in German) for suitable vacancies or apply on your own initiative at any time. We offer our interns eye-level team integration and plenty of hands-on experience with the option of longer cooperation. Finally, a separate piece of advice: if you have the opportunity to make your hobby your profession, take it! You will not regret it!
What do you think of Think3DDD? Let us know in a comment below or on our Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.
*Cover photo credits: Think3DDD