Medical Devices

Will 3D printing also help build a better crutch?

crutch arm A new company is leveraging the power of 3D printing to try and build a better – and more comfortable – crutch.

Better Walk was launched by students at Georgia Tech University and got a boost by showcasing at the White House’s Maker Faire, as well as getting display time at this year’s Southeastern Medical Device Association conference. It’s gotten some early customers, time in an accelerator and some seed money.

It now wants to focus on getting the crutch product rolling and additional sales under its belt so it can introduce new products later down the line.

Co-founder and CEO Partha Unnava has said the company wants to be “the Nike brand of crutches.”

It’s been hard to disrupt the crutch – in part because it can sell for as little as $32 at your local Walgreens. But more and more high-end designeresque, “Nike-like” brands are giving it a shot. A Minnesota company, Mobi, makes its own line of ergonomically friendly crutches called Mobilegs. Harrison Ford was seen strolling around on the iWalk hands-free crutch.

iWalk and Mobi sell for roughly the same $120 price tag Better Walk is offering.

Better Walk’s difference is it brings 3D printing into the mix. Unnava said that approach makes the crutches more personal and user friendly.

“We were able to create visual demonstrations of different iterations and changes suggested to us by orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists, and within a few weeks after the suggestions were made, take in the updated design for further feedback,” Unnava said.

This easy design also allows the company to cut the time and funding needed for traditional prototyping, and dive into the market and start testing and redesigning products faster than normal.

Better Walk’s design also differs from that of the competition in that the hand grip is angled and has an attached holster, giving more support to the wrist and forearm. It also has a side contact piece which makes it impossible for you to put any weight on your underarms, ridding crutch users of underarm pain completely.

The company is finishing product development and, according to a video on their press page, six orthopedic surgeons have already signed letters of intent to purchase the crutch.

Partha said in the video that the device falls under the reimbursement code for a forearm crutch, so money comes into a hospital when they buy it and give it to a patient.

During a radio interview, Partha said the company is targeting orthopedic clinics first because they have more leeway to bring new technologies to patients.

The company has thought about co-branding, but it’d be with a strategic partner like a distributor or hospital group that knows about the production of crutches.

The student-founded company has participated in Zero to 510, a medical device accelerator program for startups, and has raised $150,000 in seed funding.

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