From patch to patient: FPP goes medical

Due to its excellent specific weight-related properties as well as outstanding fatigue resistance, fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) plays a major role in the production of customized medical device structures. Especially for heavily loaded extracorporeal parts like prosthetics and orthotics, it is the material of choice. Germany is one of the most active countries in the lightweight R&D for medical engineering, but since the majority of fiber-based medical products is still produced by hand, manufacturing is largely outsourced to low-wage countries, or products are sold at a very high cost and are not available for the majority of patients. Additionally, the manual manufacturing makes the tracing of quality parameters effortful and is hard to monitor, adding to the high cost of those components. As many components are customized to the actual patient, an automation of the production was not possible to date with current conventional FRP manufacturing technologies.

In this context, the joint research project “Patch2Patient”, co-funded by the German government, was launched in 2019 to provide the technology baseline for a digital process chain in the production of FRP medical products. Besides Cevotec as project coordinator, in total six partners are working on this project: Carbovation GmbH, Mecuris GmbH, Guenther Bionics GmbH, Otto Bock SE & Co. KGaA and Fraunhofer IPA. At the heart of the envisioned digital, flexible and automated value chain for medical carbon fiber parts and components, our Fiber Patch Placement (FPP) technology provides the concept to automate the production process due to its ability to produce highly complex shaped composite parts.

The project comprises a fundamental investigation and enhancement of the FPP production process to manufacture customized composite prosthetics and orthotics. Furthermore, the partners are analyzing different methods and developing a prototype digital workflow to process specific patient data for the subsequent customized design of the required part. The overall goal of Patch2Patient is to create a solid baseline for an automated digital process chain from the collection of the patient data to the optimized design of the composite part.

At Cevotec, we are analyzing possible approaches to incorporate patient data into our laminate design software ARTIST STUDIO. In addition, we are currently developing a dedicated feeding and cutting unit (FCU) as a key enabler for an FPP process suitable for the efficient and economical production of medical composite products. We aim to make this FCU capable of handling different fiber materials, such as carbon and glass fiber, and processing patches of variable lengths. Besides regular carbon and glass fiber material, the FCU will also be able to handle especially cost efficient towpreg material as well as special fiber materials with improved fatigue and impact resistance.

Stay tuned to learn more about the results of this project after its completion in 2023!


This research and development project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the program “Innovations for the Production, Service and Work of Tomorrow” (funding codes 02P18C090 to 02P18C096) and supervised by the Project Management Agency Karlsruhe (PTKA). The responsibility for the content of this publication remains with the authors.

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