A wide array of materials were used in
According to Hollister, the engineers
opted for a more engineered-style
plastic rather than a commodities-style
plastic, because of spec requirements,
strength, and robustness.
• Loop Materials: The brace has a lot of
fabrics in its design, particularly loop
materials. Breg worked with the companies in the industry that are at the forefront of hook-and-loop combinations,
cycle testing, and use-over-time.
• Foams: The design incorporates many
foams, so Breg worked with market leaders in foam processing and development
to make sure that the materials met comfort and functionality requirements.
• Aluminum: For the aluminum parts, the
team went with an aircraft-grade, 6061
According to Hollister, the Breg culture is
different when it comes to the relationships
between the product development teams.
"The engineering team is constantly meeting
with our supply chain teams, trying to build
those relationships further so that it doesn't
feel like it's a church and state separation,''
he says. "We understand that you can't get to
that end goal without both [engineering and
supply chain] driving in the same direction.
These relationships get us there faster."
The tight bond between teams begins with the
project kickoff during which the company sets
up detailed expectations for the project in terms
of financial results, the overall deliverables,
supply chain operations, quality, marketing, and
engineering. "We have this meeting upfront to
make sure everyone is aligned," adds Smith.
Common Failure Points
Common failure points on previous product
iterations hark back to Breg's core focus: comfort, ease-of-use, and functionality. Previous
generations had rigid components that were
not designed to fit the anatomy and the braces
often neglected to have adequate padding.
Former products also lacked the micro-adjust-ability. The braces were designed to fit an array
of people, which affects the comfort and function. "If you have a brace that is so high-profile,
you're trying to capture too many anatomies
under one product, and it's not necessarily designed with the human body in mind,"
Hollister says. If the patient refuses to wear the
brace, its overall effectiveness is non-existent.
After all, what good is a brace that collects dust
on a shelf?
The T Scope features Breg's telescoping
design that enables a fast, universal fit. The
telescoping bars also limit hip abduction and
adductions, and the semi-rigid cuffs
help maintain control of the femur.
A patented, range-of-motion hinge
provides quick-adjusting stops and it also features a
"Quick Lock" to lock out brace positions with a push
of a button. A unique waist compression lacing system gives patients an easy "one-handed pull" for an
intimate fit as well as additional back support, and
extra padding throughout the brace provides additional comfort.
Once Breg arrived at the prototype stage, multiple
staff members wore the brace to get a feel for it in
the field. "I was in the brace at least once a day,"
says Hollister. "I slept in it quite a few times, wearing it under and over clothes, as well as the little
nuances that patients might have." Those nuances
included using crutches while wearing the brace.
"We thought we had a great design, so we went out
into the field to a doctor's physical therapy unit and
saw a patient in a brace, using crutches. Up until
that point, it wasn't something that we had even
considered." As a result, the team added cushioned
hand protection for people using crutches. It's a
subtle, but necessary tweak that helps keep that
brace on the patient's body.
The engineering team also worked closely with
an in-house industrial designer to ensure that
they weren't developing a functional, comfortable
eyesore. "The industrial designer worked throughout the project to make sure that it looked like a
product that people would actually like to wear,"
Hollister says. "The engineering team worked with
him to make sure that the aesthetics and functions
Stresses & Strains
Since Breg began work on the T Scope in 2012,
the team has primarily used Solidworks as its CAD
software. The industrial designer incorporated work
in Adobe Illustrator, but the bulk was executed in
Solidworks, particularly with the software's finite
element analysis (FEA) tool. According to Hollister,
he used FEA to put stresses and strains on the
parts in an attempt to test as much in the computer
environment as possible.
As they moved into tooling for the injection molded components, the team turned to Solidworks
Plastics to determine the flow of the plastic in the
tool and make sure that quality parts were coming
out of the tool. From start to finish, including the
core team members and those on the fringe, about
20 people had input along the way, so the staff
also used a Solidworks product data management
(PDM) package to keep control of the model files.
Until now, a better hip brace didn't exist because
previous challenges were deemed insurmountable.
With increased comfort, as well as micro-adjusta-bility to customize the fit to each individual patient,
the T Scope is designed to stay on the patient, and
off of their floor.
The T Scope features a telescoping
design (above) that enables a fast,
universal fit. A patented, range
of motion hinge (top right) provides quick-adjusting stops and a
unique waist compression lacing
system (below) gives patients an
intimate fit as well as additional
back support. (Credit: Breg)