When Eva de Goede, the three-time Olympic medalist field hockey player of the Dutch national team, fractured her wrist just two months before the start of the 2021 European Championship, it was a race against the clock to recover in time. A special custom-made 3D printed brace to support her wrist postoperative made it possible for her to rejoin the squad in time for the tournament.
A 3D scan was made of Eva’s hand by Centrum Orthopedie (CO), which was processed by Artus3D to generate a 3D model of the brace. In cooperation with Saskia Sizoo, a special design called the ‘Sizoo dynamic wrist brace 2.0’ had been developed in 2020 to help people with wrist problems and to speed up the rehabilitation of the wrist. The design was then printed within a day through the on-demand 3D printing platform Beamler. With her special brace, the team captain went on to win a historic 11th and third consecutive EuroHockey Championship title for the Dutch women’s team, beating Germany in the final with 2-0.
Eva plays as a midfielder for the Dutch national team and scored three times during the championship. She was awarded ‘Player of the tournament’. “It was an amazing experience to be able to play, and to win on Dutch soil with a live audience! I am so grateful we were able to achieve this, it’s one of my more precious victories. I owe this gold medal to the quick rehabilitation process with Saskia and the fast orthosis production”, said Eva De Goede. “When I broke my wrist I didn’t yet dare to dream of this, but I aimed for the 1% chance that it could happen. The 3D printed brace it’s been a life-changer for me, so I can recommend the Sizoo dynamic brace to anybody dealing with the same type of injury. I can now look forward to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, I feel my team is well-prepared for it.“
Braces have very strict specifications, they should have excellent mechanical properties to prevent the articulation from shifting but should also be flexible at room temperature for more comfort. TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane, is a class of plastics that presents properties of elasticity and good mechanical behavior. So TPU was the material of choice to make the brace for Eva.
TPU can be 3D printed via Multi Jet fusion, a process similar to binder jetting where a chemical additive is projected on a powder bed to form the part layer by layer. This process guarantees a short delivery time, low porosity, and excellent surface finish. With this cutting-edge technology, perfectly suited for this purpose, braces can be manufactured in record time and at a low price compared to other technologies.
3D printing also has other interesting applications in other sports. The main one is about injury prevention with the manufacturing of custom-made helmets for American football, biking, or hockey. The 3D printed helmets used in the NFL (National Football League) are among the best in the world because of their unique design that fits perfectly to the athlete’s head. The lattice structure offers superior protection to the traditional foam used in helmets. Another application in active development is custom running shoes. Adidas and Nike both announced running shoes with 3D printed midsoles that allow better comfort and reduced weight.