appliance technicians construct, fit, maintain, and repair braces,
artificial limbs, joints, arch supports, and other surgical and medical
appliances. They follow prescriptions or detailed instructions from
podiatrists or orthotists, who request braces, supports, corrective
shoes, or other devises; prosthetists, who order prostheses --
replacement limbs, such as an arm, leg, hand, or foot -- for patients
who need them due to a birth defect, accident, or amputation; or other
health care professionals. Medical appliance technicians who work with
these types of devices are called orthotic and prosthetic technicians.
Other medical appliance technicians work with appliances that help
correct other medical problems, such as hearing aids.
Creating medical devices
takes several steps. To make arch supports, for example, technicians
first make a wax or plastic impression of the patient's foot. Then they
bend and form a material so that it conforms to prescribed contours
required to fabricate structural components. If a support is mainly
required to correct the balance of a patient with legs of different
lengths, a rigid material is used. If the support is primarily intended
to protect those with arthritic or diabetic feet, a soft material is
used. Supports and braces are polished with grinding and buffing wheels.
Technicians may cover arch supports with felt to make them more
For prostheses, technicians
construct or receive a plaster cast of the patient's limb to use as a
pattern. Then, they lay out parts and use precision measuring
instruments to measure them. Technicians may use wood, plastic, metal,
or other material for the parts of the artificial limb. Next, they
carve, cut, or grind the material using hand or power tools. Then, they
drill holes for rivets and glue, rivet, or weld the parts together. They
are able to do very precise work using common tools. Next, technicians
use grinding and buffing wheels to smooth and polish artificial limbs.
Lastly, they may cover or pad the limbs with rubber, leather, felt,
plastic, or another material. Also, technicians may mix pigments
according to formulas to match the patient's skin color and apply the
mixture to the artificial limb.
After fabrication, medical
appliance technicians test devices for proper alignment, movement, and
biomechanical stability using meters and alignment fixtures. They also
may fit the appliance on the patient and adjust them as necessary. Over
time the appliance will wear down, so technicians must repair and
maintain the device. They also may service and repair the machinery used
for the fabrication of orthotic and prosthetic devices.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.