Digitalisation

Ottobock is digital. Ottobock is human.

We shape the future and back digital transformation – from high-tech manufacturing technology to digital fitting processes to smart sensors and use of artificial intelligence. The needs of our users, patients and customers drive everything we do.

Shaping the future together

The world is digital. That's why we invest in solutions that build bridges between humans and technology. Around the world, our digital start-up teams drive innovation.

iFab: how 3D scanners and printers are revolutionising fitting for patients

To this day, plaster casts are made in order to fit prostheses as effectively as possible. However, 3D scanners are a faster option that is more comfortable for the patient. Our iFab – short for “individual fabrication” – enables us to produce custom orthoses and prostheses quickly. O&P professionals scan a residual limb and process the data directly on a computer. Time that was once spent on manual work on the plaster cast – often a complex task – can now be channeled into the fitting process. The processed data are tested in a computer simulation and transferred directly to the milling machine and 3D printer. This minimises error sources. iFab digitalises the entire fitting and manufacturing process.

"As an O&P professional, I was initially somewhat sceptical about digitalisation. However, I was won over when my first user reported that their 3D-printed liner actually fit better."

Uli Maier, O&P professional

The five steps of digital fabrication

An Ottobock employee is kneeling next to a woman, scanning her residual lower limb

Scanning

A scanner is used to record images of the relevant body part from all sides (360°). This method is quicker and more comfortable than a plaster cast.

Modifying

By editing the scan in the software, the O&P professional can shape the device according to the fitting goal.
Image of a white foot orthosis that was fabricated using 3D printing.

Fabrication with 3D printing

The product is fabricated layer by layer in the 3D printer. This process is currently used to fabricate orthoses and helmets. However, it will also be possible to use the technology for prostheses in future.
A milling robot fabricating a model for producing a prosthesis, based on the design created on the computer.

Alternative: using a milling robot for fabrication

A foam model is created. This is referred to as a “positive” and is in turn used as a template for fabricating a custom product.
An Ottobock employee fabricating a custom prosthesis with the help of the model produced via additive manufacturing.

Fabrication

The custom device is produced on the positive model.

Digitising a craft

The digital ecosystem in iFab not only places a stronger focus on patients’ needs and interests during fitting. It also makes the related administrative processes easier for medical supply companies and orthopaedic technology businesses. Instead of making plaster models, they now transmit their data digitally via an online platform (the iFab Customer Centre). We support them as they make the transition to a plaster-free workshop and give them the digital tools they need to use our global Ottobock iFab fabrication sites as their extended workbench.

More time for people

Digitalisation eases the manual workload in orthopaedic technology. In return, there will be an even stronger focus on caring for patients. The iFab platform provides a crucial new intermediate step in patient fitting – namely, simulation. Using patients’ biometric data, a computer can now be used to check, even before it’s fabricated, whether the fitting solution will work as intended. This makes fabrication more precise, minimises potential errors and saves materials and time.

iFab 4.0 – Advancing the digitalisation of orthopaedic technology

A digital treatment process that is precisely tailored to the specific needs of orthopaedic technology, that further improves personalised patient care and that optimises the 3D printing process chain with intelligent algorithms. This is the goal of iFab 4.0, an innovation project funded by the European Union and the Federal State of Lower Saxony.

Higher quality fitting

At its site in Duderstadt, Ottobock is adding more intelligent innovations to its own process chain (scanning, modifying, 3D printing), making it more seamless. For example, the project team is developing special software solutions to scan and model human anatomy. It's also powering ahead to automate additive manufacturing and network the iFab hub in southern Lower Saxony with international digital fabrication sites.

The plan is to store data from individual digital fittings and also from the entire digital production chain in a central database in the future. Here, AI and algorithms filter out successful models and methods that can then be used to self-optimise devices and processes. Our vision is to create a seamless, digital fitting chain and 3D printing production chain that grows more intelligent over time, thus achieving even higher quality fittings.

"My personal mission is to use digital technology to make fitting as easy as possible. My mother has a leg prosthesis, so I know from experience how important it is to simplify fitting!"

Güngör Kara, Chief Digital Officer

"An inquisitive mind and a playful approach, coupled with a clear vision – these are the best companions for implementing innovations successfully!"

Nadja Singer, Head of Digital Market Acceleration

"I want to test and push boundaries with my team. Frontier technology such as AI-based control algorithms helps users to perceive their devices as part of their own body. I find that incredibly fascinating!"

Dr Andreas Goppelt, Chief Technology Officer

"The next exciting step in the future will be prostheses that can "feel". Ideally, the user should feel that the prosthesis or orthosis is part of their own body – a natural extension of the body, so to speak."

Michael Friedrich Russold, Research and Development

"As someone who wears a leg prosthesis, I'm basically the interface between users and developers. My hope for the future: to actually "feel" with my artificial leg, so that it's more like a natural part of my body."

Heinrich Popow, Global Liaison Manager

Artificial intelligence (AI) for intuitive movements

How does a hand prosthesis know when to flex a finger and type on a keyboard? In the past, people with an amputation had to spend considerable time learning to give their prosthesis complex signals via muscle contractions. Today, prostheses can learn from their users. Thanks to electrodes that capture biosignals in the residual forearm and artificial intelligence, Ottobock prostheses are able to identify how the user wants to move and automatically assign these signals to the correct hand movement.

Myo Plus pattern recognition in daily life

Control via smartphone and app

Right from the start, O&P professionals use a special app when fitting and adjusting this type of prosthesis. After this, users can manage and practise controlling the prosthesis themselves on their smartphone.

And if they give their consent, devices can even be serviced via the cloud in future. The prostheses will then be able to send direct feedback to Ottobock so we can optimise the technology and avoid potential errors before they occur.

Smart sensors and microprocessors

Ottobock introduced the C-Leg – the world’s first leg prosthesis to be controlled by microprocessors – back in 1997. The experiences we gained in the process led to the introduction of the Genium in 2011. This solution simulates a natural, physiological gait almost perfectly with the help of microprocessors, microsensors and micromotors. This enables users to move with maximum safety, even on difficult surfaces.

Combined advances in computer, sensor and motor technology mean that users can now use the prostheses for running, cycling and swimming. Users can simply select the various modes; an app on their smartphone is one way of doing so. This demonstrates how digital transformation is opening up new opportunities. At the same time, it also creates new requirements – so a special coating on Ottobock’s bebionic hand prosthesis now makes it easy to interact with touchscreens on mobile phones or tablets.

More quality of life thanks to digitalisation

A woman wearing a bebionic hand with Myo Plus prosthesis control presents her ideas on a magnet board.

Lina and the AI in her arm

Lina’s prosthesis learns from her: the Myo Plus control with pattern recognition uses eight electrodes to measure movement patterns in her residual forearm. Based on artificial intelligence, these are assigned to certain hand movements and grips. Tying shoelaces or turning a doorknob are just a couple of examples.
Close-up of a smartphone with an open app that is connected to the wearer’s hand prosthesis.

Wolfgang’s hand learns thanks to the app

The Myo Plus app helps Wolfgang control his prosthesis even more intuitively. While prostheses used to be something of an inscrutable “black box”, the app now makes the user’s individual movement patterns directly visible for the first time. This makes practising and adjusting them easier.
Two children and a woman with a leg prosthesis laugh as they walk a dog in a garden.

Kerstin’s prosthesis anticipates her thoughts

The Genium X3 gives Kerstin a nearly natural gait. The microprocessor-controlled prosthesis responds immediately and intelligently to any situation. This means Kerstin can be active along with her children; but most importantly, it means she can live her day-to-day life almost as she did before the amputation.
Two Ottobock employees treating a man. Using a device which is connected to a laptop on a small table next to the man, they measure the nerve cords in his amputated arm.

Thoughts move Tim’s arm

Tim can move his arm prosthesis via “thought signals” based on targeted muscle reinnervation. It took one operation and nearly two years of training to get this far. But now, when Tim thinks of making a fist, the corresponding muscle is activated and the associated signal closes the prosthetic hand.

Your contact for more information on digitalisation

Maja Hoock

PR Manager

+49 30 403 639 446
Maja.Hoock@ottobock.de

Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA
Prenzlauer Allee 242
10405 Berlin