Science is rockin’ it!
Don’t underestimate the potential of 3D printing. While plenty of useless trinkets are being manufactured by 3D printers, the emerging technology is also being applied to challenging problems desperately in need of fresh ideas.
One problem is the outdated manufacturing of prosthetics. Over 2 million amputees live in the U.S., and 185,000 new amputations happen each year. This is a significant portion of the population, yet many are unable to afford prosthetics.
Manufacturing prosthetics is extremely expensive
Specialized technicians are required to manually create handmade pieces that are assembled, fitted, adjusted, then fitted again. Children with missing limbs must be refitted for new prosthetics as they grow, creating a massive financial burden for the family.
Designer William Root aimed to make prosthetics affordable, easier to produce, and more aesthetically pleasing. So he created Exo Prosthetics, which produce titanium, 3D printed limbs. First, a 3D scanner collects information from the residual limb of the wearer, ensuring the finished prosthetic will be customized to fit the body.
Next, modeling software is used to design the limb
The wearer can customize the limb to match their particular fashion sense. Amputees can benefit physically and psychologically from wearing a prosthetic limb, but robotic appearances of current models can negatively affect wearers self-esteem. The added bonus of customization is especially helpful for amputees to overcome the psychological stress of wearing a false body part.
In the past, amputees were stuck with odd, mechanical looking prosthetics. With 3D printing, people can design their prosthetics to look how they want them to. Then, the prosthetic is printed with titanium, a light but durable metal that generally doesn’t cause allergic reactions to the body.
3D printing dramatically reduces manufacturing time and cuts the cost in half. 3D printing also allows unprecedented customization. This is just the tip of the iceberg -the only limit is our imagination.