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Young patient inspires axial3D’s nominated charity for 2017

08 March 2017



Sans titre 1  

axial3D is proud to confirm Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice as our chosen charity for 2017.

Our decision was inspired by Nathan Doyle, an extraordinary 9 year old boy from Belfast who had a rare, life-limiting musculoskeletal condition. During 2016 we developed a close relationship with the entire Doyle family as our team, together with his medical team at Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC), created a novel 3D printed cast that helped prolong and enhance the quality of his life.

Although this young boy had overcome many difficulties living with this very complex muscle disorder, Nathan sadly passed away in November 2016. In the extremely difficult months before his passing, Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice provided tremendous support for Nathan and his devoted family.

Sans titre-1 The Case

“How big are your printers? Could they print a pair of trousers?” A question more fitting for a tailor than a surgeon, but this particular surgeon had big ideas in mind. Pleased with the size of the largest printer indicated by Daniel Crawford [axial3D CEO], Mr Jim Ballard, Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon at the RBHSC, shared the story of Nathan Doyle, a young boy he was treating with a very rare condition, x-linked mytubular myopathy. Common symptoms of this condition include mild to profound muscle weakness, diminished muscle tone, feeding difficulties and severe breathing complications.

As the condition made Nathan's bones prone to fractures and breakages with even minor movement, in 2013 the consultant fitted him with a hip spica, a protective plaster cast from his belly button to his ankles to minimize the risk. The cast was replaced approximately every 3 months to accommodate growth, requiring the use of general anesthetic. Despite predictions that the hip spica would only be a viable solution for 6 months, it exceeded all expectations, allowing the Nathan to attend school, accompany his father to the gym and enjoy an active family life for the next three years. Unfortunately, in early 2016, Nathan suffered additional complications and Mr. Ballard, who is an avid user of 3D printing for preoperative planning, approached us in search of a solution.

The Problem

Nathan suffered complications when his skin started to break out in painful lesions. This was due to the limited ventilation of the traditional plaster cast. Without intervention, there was a high risk that he would contract septicemia. This complication presented two key requirements from a solution:

  • All the strength of a plaster cast but with the ability to circulate air, to allow the skin to recover.
  • Allow the consultant to assess his patient’s dermatological condition without needing to administer a general anesthetic.
The Solution

Working in close collaboration with the surgeon and the family, axial3D’s in-house team designed a new 3D printed cast using a light ‘honeycomb’ structure using a CT scan of the original cast as a guide. This new cast provided the optimum balance between toughness which was vital to protect from fractures and breakages, and enhanced ventilation to circulate air. The 3D printed cast was also constructed in two separate sections so it could be taken off and on easily using a small screwdriver, removing the need for general anesthetic.

Spica development Journey from traditional plaster cast to novel honeycomb 3D printed cast [L-R]: traditional plaster hip spica cast, 3D scan of the plaster cast, 3D visual of the honeycomb mesh creation, 3D visual of the engineered honeycomb mesh cast and the final 3D print which helped to prolong and enhance the quality of life for young Nathan Doyle. Fundraising Plans

Throughout 2017 the axial3D team will complete events and challenges to raise funds for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, a charity that performs such a vital and valued service.

This commitment is in line with our core value to support the local community as we continue to grow. Already on the schedule is a marathon, a muddy assault course, and given our love of all things sweet, we can expect a few cake sales. Make sure to keep an eye out for blog posts and twitter updates tracking our fundraising progress.

Pledge your Support

To pledge your support for the vital work of the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, please click on the axial3D JustGiving page. All donations, big and small, are very gratefully received and will be presented to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice in memory of Nathan Doyle.

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Our decision was inspired by Nathan Doyle, an extraordinary 9 year old boy from Belfast who had a rare, life-limiting musculoskeletal condition.