3D Printed Orthopaedic Braces – Holey Interview

A team of biomedical engineers came up with the idea of 3D printable orthopaedic braces and they then built the software and hardware platform to support them. 

Meet Holey, a start-up that wants to revolutionise the design and the production process of plaster casts and orthopaedic braces.

We met them at Maker Faire Rome and found out more about their revolutionary idea. 

Can you tell us more about Holey, the company, the idea and what inspired you?

We develop a platform able to realise 3d printable orthopaedic braces which are waterproof, light and sparky, and can absolutely replace the traditional plastic cast and the prefabricated orthopaedic braces. The platform is composed of an innovative 3D scanner, which can acquire the geometry of the patient automatically in less than 30 seconds. Then we have a software, following the patient’s anatomy, which can generate the 3D model of the braces. Then we have the 3D printer, which can fabricate, using biocompatible resin.

What differentiates you from competitors?

The difference is that we develop an end-to-end platform. We are the only company with an automatic 3D scanner, which can display the division of the geometry in less than 30 seconds. We are the only ones with 3D modelling software that can generate braces automatically, according to the doctor’s parameters, we are the only ones who can fabricate the brace, ready to be used after the 3D printing process.

Other companies need a lot of small tasks; they need to use commercial software and hardware. It’s not an end to end platform and they are really complicated for doctors to use. Our software is easy to use because we developed it using the doctor’s feedback, step-by-step. The user experience and the graphic user interface was also developed using doctors’ feedback.

How did you start?

I’m a biomedical engineer and researcher, and it started when I discussed the idea with my associate Francesco. Francesco was very positive and that’s why we decided to do it.  We started developing the hardware and software one year ago,  and we have been on the market since May.

How’s it going? Can you share a bit more about the prototyping cycle?

So far, so good. We sell four platforms, and we are in 3 rehab centres and 1 private clinic. We started with prototyping the 3D scanner because for us it was the most important part of the chain. We’re doing the laser cutting and then we continue with the 3D printing. We developed all the mechanics, we chose the electronics and the other components and then we started developing the software, using the doctor’s feedback, we developed all the algorithm and the parts.

Do you make everything in Italy? What do you envision for Holey?

Basically, yes. 90% of our product is made in Italy. The vision for the next 5 years is to start with the upper limbs and then we will cover all the possible braces for the body. Also for the legs, the chest and the shoulder. We’re starting to personalise the medicine according to the patient’s needs.

Is this your first time at Maker Faire Rome? What do you think about this year’s Faire?

No, this is our third time. We started with a little booth and now have grown with demand. So far, so good. There are a lot of people and many new and interesting companies and start-ups that we could build something together with.

How many people are you?

We are 3 associates, 2 business angels, and 5 employees, all based in Rome.

What was the initial phase of Holey, how did the idea about Holey take form? Were there any alterations?

At the beginning, our aim was to build the brace and then sell it. We then discovered that it’s not an easy process because of medical law. We decided to develop the technology, the software and the hardware and then we would be able to sell it to private or public clinics. At the beginning, we also thought that we will just do it for the hand and that’s it. Then they taught us to think bigger, so we thought how to apply the technology to the whole body. So our ambitions have grown.

What are your plans for expanding outside Italy?

The first step is Italy, but we’re also thinking of expanding to Germany and France. Germany, because is very famous for orthopaedic technology and also for the doctors. They have many orthopaedic Universities, and they also they have a very strong market, made mostly of private clinics. France, because is very famous for orthopaedic surgery.

Images: Holey & Bare Conductive