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Startup Story

FixIt reimagines traditional casts and splints in 3D printed plastic

FixIt founders Felipe Neves and Hebert Costa with FixIt prosthetics

With a breathable bioplastic mesh, a Brazilian startup helps patients break up with plaster casts

If you’ve ever broken a bone or sprained a joint, you know how uncomfortable traditional splints and casts can be. Felipe Neves, a trained physical therapist, broke several bones as a child and felt called to create better orthopedic products. At a startup event in 2015, Neves and his friend Hebert Costa decided to start a company to develop better medical prosthetics for orthopedic, neurological, and rheumatological use cases, including fracture procedures and post-surgical recovery. The duo co-founded FixIt in Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, in 2015 with a goal of replacing cumbersome traditional plaster casts with a more comfortable and sustainable immobilization solution.

Sleek, waterproof, and breathable, via a honeycomb mesh, FixIt’s 3D printed casts offer patients freedom of movement and come in a fashion-forward palette of 64 colors. “Patients experience our casts as much lighter, more comfortable, and hypoallergenic,” says Neves. A cast itches; it bothers you; you sweat inside. "Not with FixIt. Our honeycomb design provides ventilation, allows athletes to continue some forms of training, and permits doctors to perform ongoing evaluations, without removing the cast.”

“You can shower or swim with it” - Fixit 3D prints biodegradable prosthetics
FixIt 3D prints its custom prosthetics from thermoformed/thermomoldable plastic that is flexible and lightweight, fitting arms, legs, and other parts of the body comfortably. FixIt’s innovative product design provides extensive ventilation. The plastic material is easy to clean, comfortable to wear, and allows recovering patients more freedom of movement than traditional splints. It’s also waterproof, so users can shower with it on or even swim, without having to cover it. The plastic, derived from sugar cane, beets, and corn husks, is biodegradable. “Each orthosis has a specific design for each joint, either by measurement or standard size,” says Neves, FixIt’s CEO, noting that FixIt’s product is beneficial for children, in particular, in its flexibility, breathability, and waterproof material.

On average, about 2 percent of the country’s population or some 4 million Brazilians, experience a broken bone or fracture in an average year, due to falls, sports injuries, car accidents, sport injuries, overuse, low bone density and other factors. FixIt’s product speeds up the process of immobilizing a body part for healthcare providers and patients. The products last up to three years and can be remolded about four times after the first application.

Healthcare partners, including Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital in Brazil, a major hospital in Latin America, can use motherboards produced by FixIt to print parts on in-house 3D printers as needed. FixIt hit its milestone of one thousand custom prosthetics printed in Brazil and South American in April 2021 and has served four thousand customers. Over 105 licensed professionals have access to the company's technology. “We have licensees that are large clinics and hospitals, as well as government agencies,” says Neves.

FixIt has two other solutions: Plan It and Lean It. Plan It is a surgical planning service, in which the patient’s healthcare provider sends FixIt a tomography or resonance file of, for example, a broken bone. Fixit transforms it into a file for 3D printing, and the 3D parts can be printed locally, allowing the surgeon to plan for surgery using a 3D model of the patient’s bone break. Lean It is a healthcare innovation consultancy focused on the development of health products, like medical devices. Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital is FixIt’s main consulting client.

FixIt uses three different types of 3D printers for its products: Sethi3D, Creality, and Any Cubic. They use Prusa, Simplify, and Cura software, which is 100% secure using Google Cloud Platform and cryptography.

Customers can order prints via FixIt’s console app, which was initially built on Firebase and is now built on Google Cloud Platform. They also use Google Cloud Run and Cloud Storage. Healthcare providers collect patients’ measurements to prepare a 3D model of the patient’s splint, and then each patient’s custom orthosis is 3D printed for them.

Partners use FixIt in multiple ways. Some doctors and hospitals purchase the complete solution, which is a carton of 3D printing materials and printers. Individual patients can purchase the plastic material filament and print a prosthesis at home, using their own 3D printer. And partners of doctors and hospitals can choose either of those two options.

FixIt cofounder Hebert Costa works in the FixIt office. Across from him is a 3D printer and above his desk are FixIt prosthetics.

FixIt cofounder Hebert Costa works in the FixIt office. Across from him is a 3D printer and above his desk are FixIt prosthetics.

Participating in Google for Startups Accelerator: Brazil
The FixIt team learned about Google for Startups Accelerator: Brazil from their partner, Ace, which had participated in an Accelerator. They applied because they were ready to iterate on their existing solution and enter the global market. They had clients in Brazil, Switzerland, and Africa, and they needed their Cloud solution to be stronger and more scalable for their customers.

Their mentors Fernando Costa and Tiago Dib taught them how to maximize their use of the Google Cloud Platform. With their mentors’ help, they implemented AutoScale and Google Kubernetes Engine, which reduced deployment time and impact for users, in addition to performing a greater number of deployments at a time.

What’s next for FixIt
Next steps will include improving the software for their 3D printers. “Right now, you have to use specific software for each specific printer,” says Neves. “We want to improve the software to be able to print parts to any 3D printer, not just one type. This will help us scale, evolve, and grow.”

Fixit plans to begin fundraising for their Series A at the beginning of 2023, and have begun talking to partners in Brazil. “Fixit has a solution that no one else is offering in the market,” says Neves. “We are using unique material, and our software provides 100% security, using Google Cloud Platform.”

Neves advises other entrepreneurs to maintain a growth mindset. “Try to learn as much as you can from your mentors and Google tools,” Neves says. “Keep your team with you, and keep your mind open to change. If you want to get better, you need to be open to change.”

Learn more about FixIt