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  • Writer's pictureIna Vogt

The AHA moment: Three reasons for using digital tools in orthopedic technology

When it comes to digitization, the automotive industry is a pioneer. It's however, also on everyone's lips in orthopedic technology. A lot of time and money are being invested. Jannis Breuninger, co-founder and Digital Transformation Manager at Mecuris, believes that there is a certain aha moment for everyone that makes individuals want to start digitizing.


To understand why a medical supply store/clinic should start digitizing, Jannis was a guest at Sanitätshaus [German for “medical supply store”] Nehls. He spoke with Steffen Koopman, managing director and owner of Sanitätshaus Nehls, Simon Bechtold, master orthopedic technician/prosthetist orthotist at Sanitätshaus Nehls since 2016, and Sina Gräber, second-year prosthetist/orthotist apprentice.



Jannis

You guys have been less involved in digital scanning, digital modeling and even 3D printing has been a minor priority to you, but you really caught up with it and have taken over pole position in a very short time. Did you have any aha moment? One of those experiences where you said “Now we have to start! Now we have to speed up with digitization!”?


Steffen Koopman

Yes, for me there was an aha effect. I saw that a) modeling is made very easy and b) the product that comes out ready is also very appealing. At that moment, the aha effect was that I can actually do everything digitally and don't have to do so much work in the physical workshop.


Jannis

So the result was something where you could see, okay, that worked, I can use that, it's not just some prototype or something with inferior quality?


Steffen Koopman

Yes, a finished product that I can finish with little little work.


Jannis

What do you see as the potential for you now? Where do you still want to develop or what are your next steps in the topic of digitization? What are your plans?


Steffen Koopman

We would like to expand the whole thing: Foot care and leg care as well as day and night splints. In the future, we might print peroneal splints ourselves, because they will also become more individualized. We've done very little in the area of hand splints so far. We want to expand everything just in a digital form.


Jannis

What has the most appeal for you? Do you want to combine things with traditional processes, for example printing out a functional form or something similar and then thermoforming or laminating over it? Or do you want to go more into the direction of fully digital production?


Steffen Koopman

Fully digital production.


Jannis

Okay, so that means exploiting the entire process chain?


Steffen Koopman

Exactly, we simply haven't done this area before, or only to a limited extent. And I'll put it this way, in order that I don't have to rebuild this here, we'd rather get the process through as a whole.


Jannis

Perfect! What did Mecuris help you with in particular, where could we support you in your digital process?


Sina Gräber

The introduction was really nice. Even without a lot of previous knowledge you could learn very quickly and were well accompanied in the process. I personally have nothing to do with digital, so I've to say that despite being an apprentice, I was able to learn quickly. That was really nice.


Steffen Koopman

Mecuris has already given us a lot of support in the introduction and accompaniment on our digital path - I really have to say that.


Jannis

Was it easier than expected? Did you have a bit more respect in the beginning than it turned out in the end, once you started?


Sina Gräber

Yes, the step-by-step instructions made it really quick. I was really surprised how fast it went in the end.



 

Tip: You want to get started digitizing your workflows but just don't know where and how to start? In our free video library, we provide you with 6 practical videos that give you an initial overview of the digital process chain and the possibilities of digitization in orthopedic technology. Discover more >>


You already made the first step, but need a little more training in the digital creation process? Join our free of charge e-learning program!

 

Jannis

Now a deliberately provocative question: Do you think the craft will be lost at some point due to digitization?


Simon Bechtholt

Not completely, but of course it will be lost. If you think about what craftmanship looked like 20 years ago, how much was still sewn, for example, that is no longer worn today. It will go further into this development naturally. The handicraft will become smaller and smaller.


Steffen Koopman

However, we will always need it, that is also quite clear. I would say that fortunately there will always be a hand in the making of something.


Jannis

Yes, I also definitely think that the medical knowledge, that is, the knowledge about the patient and about anatomy remains with the prosthetist. I think that will always remain. To follow up on that point, what do you think the orthopedic workshop or the orthopedic company/clinic will look like in 10 or 15 years?


Steffen Koopman

Everyone will have a 3D printer. In the insole sector, of course, it will be a bit different, because there will be a milling machine. But I think that 3D printing is already leading the way in splint construction.


Jannis

Yes, milling the rails is also a digital production process. So even there, everything is already based on computer-internal models and it is no longer ground out of the block by hand. I don't want to equate digitization with 3D printing, because there are still differences. However, in my opinion, there is also a lot of potential for in-house production. There are machines now available at affordable prices that can produce really good quality.


Steffen Koopman

Yes, it's not just about orthopedics. In the rehab sector, it's actually also very interesting if I can print any discs, spare parts or things like that directly.


Jannis

Yes exactly. I also think it's important that it's getting easier, more useful and more profitable. Both, 3D printing and the time spent modeling. And I think that in 10 years we will be several steps ahead again.

This actually brings us to the last question: What do you think are the biggest opportunities for orthopedic technology that digitization offers? Where do you see the greatest opportunities for the future?


Steffen Koopman

To act on the short run. So if I need a splint and I have the program and the printer in the store, then I could say I can print a small splint or something small within 4 to 5 hours. I clearly see the advantage in time.


Jannis

On the other hand, this means that 3D printing or a comparable technology has to become a bit faster, a bit more tangible, and it also has to be really in-house so that you can access it quickly. Because no matter where it's printed, with shipping it always costs at least 24 hours in the end.


Steffen Koopman

Yes, that's exactly where I see the future.



Thank you guys so much for the interview! The whole Mecuris team wishes you continued success with your digital work!




The Nehls team

You want a personal demo of the tools on the Mecuris Solution Platform? You can see availabilities for a personal call right here.

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