The system, known as Scan2Knit, will be used to treat patients suffering from venous diseases such as leg ulcers and may potentially be used to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis.
Approximately 450,000 people in the UK are prone to leg ulcers and 130,000 elderly patients have active ulcers at any one time.
Currently the only treatment for venous leg ulcers is to apply constant pressure by tightly wrapping elastic bandages around the affected area of the leg. These are often uncomfortable and have to be applied by trained medical staff weekly.
The Scan2Knit system produces stockings made from unique combination of fibres designed for comfort which can be slipped on and off like conventional stockings.
The system uses a 3D limb scanner to measure the size and shape of the lower leg and foot. This information is then transmitted to a dedicated electronic knitting machine in the WLIC which produces a bespoke stocking designed to apply a prescribed three-dimensional pressure profile to the leg.
Dr Tilak Dias, Head of the WLIC, said: "Sustained graduated compression is the key to healing a venous ulcer. Currently this involves four layers of compression bandaging which needs to be reapplied weekly or twice weekly.
"Scan2Knit allows the doctor to prescribe the desired pressures for differing clinical applications. It produces a bandage which is seamless, fits precisely and can be delivered to the clinic for simple fitting."
The Scan2Knit system has been developed in partnership with the Vascular Studies Unit at South Manchester University Hospital which is directed by Professor Charles McCollum and with major funding from the Wellcome Trust.
Dr Dias added: "The substantial cost of dressings and bandages is small compared with the time commitment for highly trained nursing staff. Our focus needs to move from treatment to prevention where this technology may have a substantial role."
Notes to Editors:
Pictures of the stockings and the knitting machine are available on request.
Filming opportunity - Machine knitting a stocking.
The William Lee Innovation Centre is one of the UK's leading centres for technical textiles teaching and research. It is part of The University of Manchester's School of Materials which is part of The Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
The cost to the NHS is over £400 million a year for leg ulcers alone, which affect 1.5% of the elderly population. The costs for treating venous insufficiency which may follow deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are much higher as there are 1.5 million sufferers.
Veins are thin walled blood vessels that return blood from the body to the heart. Deep vein thrombosis and a failure of the valves in veins in the legs frequently causes high vein pressures (venous insufficiency) which results in leg swelling and aching venous ulcers which are unpleasant, painful and often malodorous sores.