This 3D Innovations patent application features a method of manufacturing personalized surgical gloves, which maximize comfort.
Inventors cite that a one-size-fits-all construction of traditional medical garments, including surgical gloves, can negatively impact the performance of healthcare workers, who have a varied range of physiological traits. The stakes are especially high for surgeons, where discomfort means distraction that could spell disaster. In fact, a 2015 analysis of surgical papers identified that equipment is the most severe distractor in operating rooms.
3D Innovations says its method uses a combination of measurement techniques and additive manufacturing. The process begins with capturing a three-dimensional digital model of a person’s hands. This may be done via a portable computing device that captures multiple images of the user, along with a reference object of known size, like a coin or ruler. Alternatively, a mold or impression of the user’s hands may be placed under a 3D scanner.
Illustration of a system for using a handheld computing device  to acquire physiological information of a person  along with a reference object .
A computer generates the 3D hand model, which may include lengths, widths, and circumferences for each of the fingers and palms. The models are then translated into manufacturing instructions, such as a digital modeling file format like .dwg or .stl. These formats are native to CAD modeling software, .stl being the most commonly used file type for 3D printing.
The generated instructions guide an additive manufacturing process, which may come in the form of selective laser sintering (SLS) or 3D printing. The gloves may be made out of latex, nitrile, polyvinyl chloride, or neoprene, according to the patent application. But since 3D printers conventionally work with heat, these rubbery materials may prove difficult, if not impossible to fashion. Hence, SLS serves as a more viable approach.
SLS machines, as their name suggests, selectively join particles of powdered material using a laser. 3D Innovations says techniques such as heat bonding, adhesive bonding, or sonic welding may be employed should SLS produce gloves in two halves. Quality control procedures like heat treating, coating application, or chemical treatment are also mentioned in the company’s patent application.
The document, while using surgical gloves as its illustrative embodiment, claims to be non-limiting in its descriptions. The technology may also cover the manufacturing process for other custom-fit medical garments offering eye, face, and body protection.
The featured patent application, “Custom-fit Medical Garments and Methods of Making the Same”, was filed with the USPTO on January 15, 2021 and published thereafter on July 15, 2021. The listed applicant is 3D Innovations, LLC. The listed inventors are Saleem Abdulrauf and Nathan Myers.