Partial curing of a composite material: A novel fabrication technique for creating orthopedic braces
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Some orthotic brace applications cannot benefit from fiber reinforced thermo set composites because final adjustment of the component is necessary. A next-generation orthopedic brace fabrication and fitting technique has been explored as a more rapid and cost-effective process than previously possible. Other advantages over current polypropylene and wet lay-up fabrication techniques are reduced weight, a lower profile and improved strength. These improvements could lead to new and improved designs and fabrication techniques. By partially curing an advanced composite pre-impregnated material in fabricating ankle-foot braces, the material becomes partially malleable. In this state, the clinician can adjust an ankle-foot brace, or other brace components, to the patient directly, before curing to completion. The results of the present study indicate that the partial curing fabrication concept, as tested by various methods is adequate for orthopedic brace applications. However, any attempt to post-form compromised material strength significantly. In summary, this research has demonstrated feasibility in using the partial curing process as a beneficial alternative to existing fabrication processes.