Reverse engineering is relatively novel technology, which may revolutionize clinical practice in rehabilitation. This technology may constitute next step toward patient-tailored therapy, providing customized medical products increasing effectivity and accessibility of rehabilitation procedures and decreasing cost of manufacturing and time of delivery. Such opportunities need separate research, assessment of associated threats, and dedicated solutions. This article aims at investigating the extent to which the available opportunities in the area of application of reverse engineering in rehabilitation are being exploited, including own concepts, studies and observations.
The additive manufacturing (AM), called also 3D printing or stereolitography is relatively novel technology developing since 1980s. It constitutes iterative technology based on construction the real objects layer by layer, translating this way digital file (digitized object) into a solid object. Features of such object depend on technology and material used to print, but number of both of them rapidly increases, providing important alternative for traditional manufactiring techniques. Moreover some objects have unique features (e.g. shapes) not comparable with products of traditional manufacturing.
Recent editorial article by Maruthappu & Keogh paid particular attention to potiential of 3D printing applications to transform healthcare technologies and organization. Authors divided possible healthcare applications of additive manufacturing into three main groups:
• Internet as decentralised store of blueprints (drugs, equipment, devices, and even body parts) for Early patients-tailored interventions, much quicker and cheaper than traditional delivery solutions,
• Patient–tailored therapy based on medical imaging combined with 3D printing,
• Engineering of 3D printed tissues (Maruthappu & Keogh, 2014; Murphy & Atala, 2014; Seol et al., 2014).
Further implementation of reverse engineering needs additional interdiciplinary research (including randomized controlled trials on patients where available), dedicated methodology, careful assessment of opportunities and threats as far as dedicated solutions.
Reverse Engineering as A Complex Process
Reverse engineering is regarded as quick and cost-effective method of creating functional or nonfunctional copies of existing objects. Process of reverse engineering for rehabilitation purposes is unified to several subsequent stages covered by semi-automated process:
• Digital acquisition of the 3D geometric data: directly from the patient or based on his/her medical records (e.g. using computed tomography – CT or magnetic resonance imaging – MRI),
• Modification/adaptation procedures,
• Creation of 3D model or final product on 3D printer and control of its feasibility: material features, shape, dimensions, patient comfort, etc.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Rehabilitation Engineering: A part of biomedical engineering: application of engineering science to design, develop, adapt, test, evaluate, apply, and distribute technological solutions to problems associated with disabilities in areas of mobility, communications, hearing, vision, and cognition.
Physical Therapy: Use of physical therapy methods, techniques and tools to promote, maintain, or restore the physical and physiological well-being of an individual with movement dysfunction.
Rehabilitation: Process of restoration of human functions to the full (or maximum possible) degree in patients suffering from disease or injury.
Universal Design: Concept for designing and delivering products and services usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities (including people with various deficits).
3D Printing: Technical process of building physical objects from a three-dimensional (3D) digital model by adding many subsequent thin layers of special building material (plastic, metal, etc.).
Assistive Technology: Technology used in an assistive technology device or assistive technology service.
Reverse Engineering: Quick and cost-effective method of creating copies or modified versions of existing objects, unified to three subsequent stages: digital acquisition of the 3D geometric data, modification/adaptation procedures, and creation of 3D model or final product on 3D printer.
Assistive Technology Device: Equipment used to increase, maintain, or improve functional abilities of disabled people.
Quality of Life (QOL): Multi-dimensional concept covering the overall condition of a human life in various areas: physical, emotional, social, political, moral, etc., their modification and enhancement.
Biomedical Engineering: Application of principles and practices of engineering science to biomedical research and everyday clinical practice in health care.
Recovery of Function: A complete (where available) or partial return to the normal (or maximum degree) physiologic activity of an organism following disease or trauma.
Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL): Multi-dimensional concept covering the overall condition of a human life in areas associated with impact of the health status on quality of life: physical, mental, emotional, and social functioning.