Digitalisation

Ottobock is digital. Ottobock is human.

We are shaping the future by focusing on the digital transformation: starting with high-tech manufacturing technologies and the digital treatment process all the way to smart sensor technology and the use of artificial intelligence. Our driving force is the needs of our users, patients and customers.

Shaping the future together

The world is digital. That's why we invest in solutions that bridge the gap between people and technology. In digital startups, our teams around the globe are driving innovation.

iFab: How 3D scanners and printers are revolutionising treatment for patients

To this day, plaster casts are made to adapt prostheses as effectively as possible. But 3D scanners offer a faster, more convenient option. Our iFab (individual fabrication) makes it possible to produce orthotics and prosthetics quickly and custom-made. 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. Sources of errors are also minimised, as the processed data can be tested in a computer simulation and transferred to the carving robot and 3D printer. iFab digitises the entire fitting and fabrication process.

"As an orthopaedic technician, I was sceptical about digitalisation at first, but when my first user told me that his 3D-printed liner fits better, I was convinced."

Uli Maier, Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist

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

The O&P professional can edit the scan in the software to shape the device, depending on the treatment 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: fabrication with a carving robot

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 treatment. It also makes the related administrative processes easier for medical supply companies and orthopaedic technology businesses. Instead of sending off plaster models by post, 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 is decreasing the manual component of the Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist profession. In return, there will be an even stronger focus on caring for patients. The iFab platform provides a crucial new intermediate step in patient treatment – 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 of care

At its Duderstadt site, Ottobock is working on seamlessly expanding its own process chain – scanning, modifying, printing – with further innovations. The project team is developing its own software solutions specifically for scanning and modelling human anatomy, is driving forward the automation of additive manufacturing and is connecting the iFab hub in southern Lower Saxony to international digital fabrication sites.

Data from individual digital treatments as well as from the entire production chain will be recorded in a central database in the future. There, AI and algorithms filter out success models and methods that are used to self-optimise the medical devices and processes. The vision: An end-to-end digitally connected treatment and 3D printing production process that becomes smarter over time to deliver higher quality treatments.

"My personal motivation is to make the treatments as easy as possible using digital technology! My mother is wearing a prosthetic leg and I know from my own experience how important a simplified treatment process is!"

Güngör Kara, Chief Digital Officer

"Curiosity and playfulness, coupled with a clear vision, are good companions for successfully implementing innovations!"

Nadja Singer, Head of Digital Market Acceleration

"I want to explore and push boundaries with my team. High-tech such as AI-based control algorithms helps users perceive their assistive devices as part of their own body - as 'part of me'! That fascinates me a lot."

Dr. Andreas Goppelt, Chief Technology Officer

"An exciting topic for the future will be 'feeling' prostheses! A prosthesis or orthosis should ideally be perceived by the user as belonging to the body, almost as a natural extension."

Michael Friedrich Russold, Research and Development

"As user of a leg prosthesis, I am practically the interface between users and developers. What I would like for the future: to feel with my artificial leg and a better connection to my body."

Heinrich Popow, Global Liaison Manager

Artificial intelligence (AI) for intuitive movements

How does a prosthetic hand know when to extend a finger and type on the keyboard? In the past, people with an amputation had to intensively learn to give their prosthesis complex signals via muscle contractions. Today, prostheses learn: Thanks to electrodes that capture bio-signals in the residual forearm and thanks to artificial intelligence, Ottobock prostheses are able to identify how the user wants to move. The prosthesis then automatically assigns 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.

Living better through 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.

Contact for the topic of digitalisation

Maja Hoock

PR Manager

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

Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA
Prenzlauer Allee 242
10405 Berlin