A Comparative Study for Material Selection in 3D Printing of Scoliosis Back Brace

Materials (Basel). 2022 Aug 19;15(16):5724. doi: 10.3390/ma15165724.


In recent years, many research studies have focused on the application of 3D printing in the production of orthopaedic back braces. Several advantages, such as the ability to customise complex shapes, improved therapeutic effect and reduced production costs place this technology at the forefront in the ongoing evolution of the orthopaedic sector. In this work, four different materials, two of them poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and two of them poly(ethylene terephthalate glycol) (PETG), were characterised from a thermal, mechanical, rheological and morphological point of view. Our aim was to understand the effects of the material properties on the quality and functionality of a 3D-printed device. The specimens were cut from 3D-printed hemi-cylinders in two different orientation angles. Our results show that PETG-based samples have the best mechanical properties in terms of elastic modulus and elongation at break. The PLA-based samples demonstrated typical brittle behaviour, with elongation at break one order of magnitude lower. Impact tests demonstrated that the PETG-based samples had better properties in terms of energy absorption. Moreover, 3D-printed PETG samples demonstrated a better surface finishing with a more homogenous fibre-fibre interface. In summary, we demonstrate that the right choice of material and printing conditions are fundamental to satisfy the quality and functionality required for a scoliosis back brace.

Keywords: additive manufacturing; advanced material selection; functional characterisations; orthopaedic back braces.

Grants and funding

This research was funded by Fondazione Cariplo and Regione Lombardia through the project EMPATIA@Lecco.