This is one of those articles that is just so easy to write. It has within it many of the elements that point to why we in the community like 3D printing so much: such as the opportunity to help children facing tremendous hardships, the prospect of a real shift in manufacturing, experts in one particular sector using 3D printing as means of further evolving their activities, and even the opportunity for a large insurance company to do a lot of good through what is, after all, a relatively small investment with a great deal of added value.
The foundation at the center of this article is called TOG (Together To Go), a non-profit organization based in Milan. TOG has established a center for the rehabilitation of children who suffer from complex neurological pathologies, such as lesions to the nervous system, which cause them to have serious difficulties with controlling their movements, communication, cognition and more.
TOG won the €50,000 prize at this year’s “Nati per Proteggere” (Born to Protect) competition, established by the large insurance company AXA to reward those initiatives, associations and people who work to help and protect those in need. TOG was chosen among 241 participants and 8 finalists for its “Camminare Insieme” (Walk Together) project, which, as TOG secretary Antonia Madella Noja explains, “will be used to build the TOG Lab 3D, a space for the implementation of new digital manufacturing tools to create personalized orthopedic supports.”
The heart of the TOG Lab 3D will be the Morpho Print 3D — a full metal 3D printer developed specifically for orthopedic techniques. The company behind the Morpho machine, G-Factory 3D, is a start-up founded by partners with over thirty years’ experience in the orthopedic sector and a passion for new technologies. The team created the Morpho ecosystem (which also includes a 3D scanner to acquire exact anatomical shapes and a CNC mill), as a response to the growing expectation for personalized, anatomical supports in fields that span from biomedicine to sports apparel and even entertainment.
TOG specifically selected the Morpho System in order to develop and 3D print the orthopedic supports customized for the children in their center. Not only is such customization extremely expensive to perform using traditional means, but — as anyone who has ever worked with children suffering from spasticity or other muscular and nervous disabilities knows — it is also fundamental to minimizing the discomfort of wearing supports for long periods of time. Not to mention, 3D printing makes it much easier to subsequently replace and modify them.
“We are truly happy to have won the Nati per Proteggere Award,” said Antonia Madella Noja. “This is a project that for us represented the possibility of achieving a concrete objective as well as a great opportunity to reach out to the families of the 106 children we are caring for and who suffer from these complex pathologies. Protecting these children doesn’t just mean helping them and leading them to express their full potential but also develop a context of trust and empathy which supports their families and the schools they attend.”
The TOG Lab will be one of the first to give educators and caretakers direct access to tools that can make the supports that these children need, thus eliminating both the time and elevated costs of reaching out to external services. Perhaps most importantly, the lab gives TOG the potential to directly affect and contribute to the design and manufacturing process, not just to alleviate, but perhaps even to prevent and cure the physical disabilities of their clients.