Andiamo is a startup based in the UK that builds healthcare solutions for children with disabilities using 3D scanning and printing technologies. The healthcare solution they are currently focusing on and fundraising for is orthotics – supports, braces, or splints used to support, align, prevent, or correct the function of movable body parts. The founders, Naveed and Samiya Parvez, have first-hand experience of the difficult process of getting orthoses for a child. Their son Diamo was born in 2003 with cerebral palsy due to medical negligence. He was also diagnosed quadriplegic and had very little head movement. A part of his treatment required a back brace, two wrist splints and two ankle splints.
“His orthoses had a big impact on his quality of life,” Naveed said. “Without his back brace, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t eat, and he couldn’t get into his wheelchair.”
The process of getting the orthoses took a toll on Diamo. He had to be covered in plaster and kept still to ensure the mold would fit accurately later. Then they had to wait 4 to 13 weeks for the brace to be made from the mold. Because of this wait, Diamo had grown and it had to be adjusted accordingly. This process was repeated every 6 to 9 months after he outgrew his orthoses.
Naveed was looking for a better solution than the plaster-based orthoses for Diamo and saw potential in 3D printing. Sadly, Diamo passed away in March 2012. But Naveed saw the potential in 3D printing come to fruition at a conference in 2013 where a man, Chris Thorpe, had a 3D scanned and printed piece of metal – a replica of a piece from a steam train.
“It was truly a light bulb moment,” Naveed said. “I even tweeted, ‘Is anyone doing this in health?’”
At a dinner after the conference, Naveed sat next to the conference organizer, James Governor, and said he would have a prototype for a 3D scanned and printed child’s orthoses in two years. Governor encouraged him to push for next year.
“We met a month later and got the ball rolling,” Naveed said. “We did a lot of research and realized not a lot of people were doing it and that only people that could solve the problem were the people going through the problem. Everyone was looking at it from the cost, the manufacturing point of view. It was the experience that needed to be fixed.”
Andiamo is changing the experience by working with families from day one until completion, making sure the orthosis fits and looks good. Andiamo is also changing the experiencing by cutting down wait time and costs. Instead of the 4-13 week wait, it will take just 2 days to get the orthosis printed and fitted. The 3D scanning gets rid of the plaster and takes a few minutes instead of hours. The cost of one ankle splint, traditionally made, can range from $1,300 to $1,800. A back brace is about $2,000. Insurance companies, both US and UK, tend to cover the costs. But if a child needs multiple orthoses like Diamo, it can range from $60,000 to $80,000. In three months, Andiamo reduced the costs from $1,000 to $450 (excluding design costs).
And why is design so important?
“The looking nice bit is kind of a side effect of being designed right,” Naveed said. “Orthotics currently fix the mechanical problem: your back, your wrist are in this position, it needs to be in this position. But if the thing is ugly and you don’t want to wear it, it’s not going to solve the problem.”
Andiamo is working with a 19-year-old girl who wears heavy, pink plastic orthopedic boots. She said she has to choose between walking and feeling ugly.
“That’s not a choice anyone should have to make,” Naveed said. “There’s no reason medical conditions, wellness, and beauty need to be separated.”
Andiamo is currently working with three families to get children fitted for orthotics. The company has a waitlist of more than 20 families. If their Kickstarter is fully funded, they will be able to work with at least another 3 to 5 families. They have plans to take their service worldwide in a few years.
For more information, visit Andiamo’s website at www.andiamo.io.