Due to the popularity of 3D printers and advancements in designing, manufacturing and distribution of prosthetics, a practical solution for the millions of people living with limb loss around the world is being suggested. About 200,000 amputations are executed each year in United States alone. However, getting a prosthetic limb is more or less a luxury as it costs $5,000-$50,000.
The procedure of having a prosthetic can usually take from weeks to months. Each prosthetic should fit to the requirements of the wearer as they are the personal items and hence has to be custom-made. But, due to the affordability of 3D printers, with some even cheaper than $200, the probability that anyone can be capable of designing and printing a prosthetic limb while staying at their home or local community is quickly turning into a reality.
In order to understand the cost of prosthetic limbs completely, we must look at the finances of a family with a child in need. Each prosthetic has a life expectancy of five years on average. And with young children growing each day and who are likely to break things, more frequent replacements are required.
After calculating the cost of the prosthetic limb and its later replacements, you will realize that the total lifetime cost could place a significant amount of strain on a family’s finances. In addition to this, it is nearly impossible to get insurance companies to cover that cost annually. A new Medicare scheme that would limit access to limbs (currently, there are 150,000 amputees in the system) has been reported by CNN recently.
The designing and manufacturing of prosthetic limbs by 3D printing makes it accessible to everyone and allows millions of people around the world to procure the benefits of this famous innovative manufacturing technology. Open-source initiatives such as The Enable Community Foundation permits anyone with a 3D printer to customize and produce a prosthetic hand. The Enable team consists of a universal network of passionate volunteers who are helping the people worldwide by means of 3D printing and it only costs $50.
The children can manufacture a prosthetic based on their demands via 3D printing, for example an extendable arm that permits him or her to reach down effortlessly to pick up items off the floor. Printing of a prosthetic, just like printing of a document, is turning out to be as simple as pressing the “print” button and watching the 3D printer build layer upon layer.
Prosthetics will soon be incorporated into our everyday lives with least effort in the near future. The companies like Body Labs have latest 3D scanning and body modelling technologies that let people to 3D scan their limbs and then model prosthetics after them for more natural fitting and appearance.
New technological advancements such as propulsion systems, integrated sensors and sophisticated algorithms that work together to automate more natural joint movement have been presented by the innovators like Hugh Herr of MIT. The development of predictive movement for prosthetics will assist people so that they won’t have to think hard about controlling the device. In next to no time, the prosthetics will mimic natural movement due to their more flexibility in the near future. In addition to this, people will also be capable of controlling them in part with their brain and bodies through direct natural touch input systems.
Moreover, 3D printers are going well together with several new materials, such as lightweight titanium, thus, improving durability and strength. Using multi-material 3D printing methods to create more natural sockets that better interface with the human body, prosthetics will become more comfortable as wearing an uncomfortable prosthetic is just like wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes which is horrifying.