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Advances in 3D Printing Prosthetics Will Change Lives

by • July 23, 2016 • No Comments


3D printing prosthetics is changing the way those born with missing limbs or who have lost them due to chance, illness or war live their lives. The technology is in use currently and brings life improving benefits to a few of those very least able-bodied to access traditional prosthetics. Furthermore, researchers are working on projects which can extend the opportunity to many others and in addition advance the field. These projects blend 3D printing, robotics and medicine and show how 3D printing can provide a one-of-a-kind solution to a real problem.

3D Printing Volunteers

One of the initially projects to harness the next of 3D printing was e-NABLING the next. e-NABLE are, “working to improve the accessibility to prosthetic hands without any drive for financial gain.” To achieve this goal they have created an international network of volunteers who deliver their 3D turn it into skills, time and 3D printing ability. The network endeavours to match volunteers with those in require of a 3D printed prosthetic. The expanding community can access forums, turn it intos and e-NABLE’s experience in this area. To date at very least 1,800 3D printed hands have been delivered, although the actual number may be much greater as e-NABLE do not track hands delivered by those inspired by the project but working outside the network. Whether you have access to a 3D printing device or not, you can volunteer to take part in the project and there is a guideline on how to get involved on e-NABLE’s website.

Joel Gibbard, founder of Open Bionics, launched the Open Hand Project on Indiegogo with the aim of producing a $1000 (£630) 3D printed prosthetic hand. The campaign exceeded the funding target and raised a total of $57,152 (£43,593), Gibbard is via the money to additional development of the affordable 3D printed robotic hand and fund the work at Open Bionics. To this end, Gibbard has worked with individuals who have lost a hand such as Chef Liam Corbett. Corbett lost his hand to meningitis and assisted Gibbard encertain the 3D turn it into met with the requires of meant users. Publishing the Dextrus hand under an open source license was an worthwhile part of the project. “This quite assists get these devices out to developing countries and places where import taxes can otherwise increase the cost of distribution,” said Gibbard on the campaign page.

The Phantom Limb Project

Open Bionics won the James Dyson Award in the UK and is now based at the UK’s biggest robotics lab. From the base in Bristol, the enterprise not long ago created a prosthetic hand in partnership with video game publisher Konami.

James Young photographed by Omkaar Kotedia

James Young photographed by Omkaar Kotedia

The manufacturers of Metal Gear Solid set up their Phantom Limb project to assist gamers such as James Young who is in addition an amputee. Working with Sophie de Olivieira, of the Alternative Limb Project, the team created a 3D printed hand which Young can control via the muscles in his back.

A spokesperson for Open Bionics said, “The hand is a myoelectric prosthesis. This means EMG sensors read muscle activity at a lower place James’ skin. Depending on how James is squeezing his shoulder muscles, he call tell the hand to perform five various programmed actions which include opening and closing the fingers, pointing, and via a tripod grip.”

3D printing is one-of-a-kindly suited to producing such customized objects as it eliminates the require for molds which may otherwise increase costs. Whilst weight production of goods via technique such as injection-molding spreads the cost of molds over thousands of items, customized objects such as prosthetics are not economic to manufacture in this manner. 3D printing allows for for a combination of aesthetically pleasing and personalized turn it into with life changing technology. For younger users of prosthetics the visual impact can be particularly worthwhile. Projects such as the Phantom Limb and e-NABLE aim to reshape the way ‘disability’ is seen. Intriguing and personalized 3D printed prosthetics projects like these bring happiness to wearers such as 4 year old in Chile who obtained a Spiderman themed 3D printed arm of the e-NABLE network.

eNABLE delivered a 3D printed hand to a child in Chile

eNABLE delivered a 3D printed hand to a child in Chile

Extending the Reach of Prosthetics

Unfortunately, many of the countries where prosthetics are many in demand are in addition a few of the poorest parts of the world. In the aftermath of war or effortless disasters the resources to manufacture actually low cost prosthetics may be scarce. To overcome this barrier a team at Germany’s Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) are investigating the use of recycled material for 3D printing. Dr. Christian Zagel launched the 3DPro initiative and hopes to 3D print prosthetics of items such as plastic cups. Dr. Zagel said in a press release, ‘We want to manufacture certain which local doctors can work with the system and which they do not require special cameras or expensive 3D printing devices, trained engineers or orthopaedic specialists.” The project aims to turn it into 3D printed prosthetics by 2017.

The traditional procedure for producing a prosthetic limb is uncomfortable-bodied and frequently involves multiple appointments for molding and measuring. When the prosthetic is to replace part of the face, and so the system can become terrifying for a few. For example, to turn it into a jaw prosthetic a mold of the relevant area must initially be created. This involves covering a patients face entirely with plaster. The patient can breathe just through a straw. Generally this is an unpleasant experience for many individuals, and for a few it can induce a claustrophobic panic. Dr. Travis Bellicchi is a maxillofacial prosthetic specialist at the Indiana University School of Dentistry and working with Professor Zeb Wood, a lecturer at the School of Media Arts and Sciences, and student Cade Jacobs the team created a 3D printed jaw. The existing prosthetic jaw was excessively heavy and frequency refutilized to stay in place. 3D printing created the object lighter and the patient, Shirley Anderson, did not have to experience the troublea few molding procedure for a 2nd time. Instead the team utilized the existing mold to turn it into a 3D version. Dr. Travis Bellicchi said the project, “Used 3D printing to replace of 75 to 80% of the system in traditional prosthetic fabrication.”

Shirley Anderson wearing the IU 3D printed jaw.

Shirley Anderson wearing the IU 3D printed jaw.

Life-changing Innovation

Desktop 3D printing is at times, and pretty unjustly, accutilized of contributing little to the world beyond adding to a cluttered heap of tchotchkes. Projects such as these demonstrate which life-changing technology is not the sole protect of those with access to high-grade industrial printing devices. 3D printing removes barriers to technology by enabling inventors to realize turn it intos which can have previously existed just in their minds. As the projects in this article, and beyond, show this has an worthwhile place in the real world.


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