Revolutionising diabetic ulcer treatment using 3D printed smart orthotics

smart orthotics

Sensfit Technologies, a Melbourne based smart wearable start-up company is partnering with Footwork Podiatric Laboratory, an Australian custom-made orthotic manufacturer to develop Smart Orthotics to help diabetes-related foot ulcer treatment.

The proportion of the world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. It is estimated that, by 2050, around two billion people globally will be aged 60 years or over. Diabetic ulcers are currently among the leading causes of amputations, disability and dependency among the elderly. As of 2018, approximately 159 million people were diagnosed with diabetes-related foot diseases (2.2 per cent of the global population). 

According to National Diabetes Services Scheme, Australia has the second highest rate of diabetes-related amputations in the developed world. There are approximately 50,000 people living with diabetes-related foot ulcers in Australia, while some 300,000 people are considered at-risk. On a more positive note, 85 per cent of diabetic-related foot disease is considered preventable offering a glimmer of hope for sufferers.  

Diabetes can cause critical damage to nerves, accelerate arterial disease reducing blood flow, and lead to a variety of medical complications. It is therefore critical to implement strategies and supporting technologies for early stage diagnosis, monitoring and prevention of diabetes-related foot. In doing so, this will allow management and support services to better target support and actively lower the national health care burden. 

The smart orthotics product combines two innovative technologies; Sensfit’s graphene sensors integrated with AI and data analysis technology, combined with Footwork’s 3D printing technology to custom manufacture large volume orthotics.  

This innovative sensor technology picks up the patterns of movement, pressure and distribution, and discrete characteristics as clinical biomarkers, allowing accurate identification of disease as well as monitoring and reporting the progression of the disease. This product could potentially lead to early treatment – either therapy or medication - for conditions that may not have been detected otherwise. 

Long-time monitoring will be able to occur for both pressure (ulcer risk), and gait patterns (diabetic polyneuropathy) and with early interventions, people can prevent this transforming into an ulcer. Smart orthotics technology allows podiatrists, carers and specialist services to obtain early, accurate and real-time diagnostic information, empowering and directing the coordination of support systems for diagnosis and management. 

Many countries including Australia have rapidly ageing populations, and many are in need of increased services to support people suffering diabetes-related foot ulcers. Providing essential care for people in need and their families is imperative in our ageing world. As such, it is critical to build innovative technologies, services and systems for early diagnosis to prevent, delay and mitigate the impact of such critical health problems.