In the field of 3D printing, medical advances have arguably received the most press, with good reason - 3D printed prosthesis are changing lives. The London Science Museum is now featuring an exhibition that highlights one great example, a 3D prosthetic arm designed and manufactured by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing. This prototype features "customised prosthetics with electronic moving parts and nerve endings, created by the research group at the University of Nottingham."
Unfortunately, the cost of high tech prosthesis like this is a serious drawback , especially when children are involved. Kids need a medical device that won't cost an ar - well you know the expression - their changing bodies require a less expensive alternative that can be replaced as needed to accommodate growth.
RapidMade is very excited to be partnering with a 13-year-old Oregonian who has a congenital amputation to customize, print and fit an inexpensive hand for him to evaluate. Alex and his mom, Lori, visited us earlier in April to discuss the project and provide his measurements. 3D printing will allow us to size the prosthetic to match his hand instead of a "one size fits all" device. David, our engineer, has already begun printing parts and assessing design features. RapidMade hopes to make plastic prosthetic hands out of ABS plastic using fused deposition modelling (FDM) and Nylon using Selective Laser sintering (SLS) in order to better meet patients' specific needs for price and quality.
We are grateful to Paul McCarthy who designed and shared the original version we are evaluating. He and other designers have made their work available for free through open sourcing to drive down costs. As 3D users already know, it is often the product design phase that is the most costly and time consuming, so to have a ready-to-print CAD file is an enormous benefit.
If this trial is successful, we hope to become part of a network that provides low-cost prosthesis to others who are similarly challenged. Stay tuned for updates on our progress...