Companies have started using 3-D printing technologies to create prosthetic limbs for amputees in developing and war-torn countries. The loss or congenital absence of limbs is prevalent in many third-world nations. Reasons for this, according to The Guardian, include war, disease and random accidents.
Amputations are an especially heavy burden in cultures based around agriculture. An inability to farm leads to causes families to provide support for amputees, a heavy burden for those already poverty-stricken.
Typical prosthetics are incredibly expensive for citizens. Many of them can run up to thousands of pounds, according to The Guardian. 3-D-printed prosthetic limbs, however, are much cheaper. In fact, the cost of acquiring one is sometimes as little as 40 pounds.
Regular prosthetics also take a significant amount of time to make. The Guardian estimates that the process of measuring a prosthetic for the right fit, building a mold and getting amputees used to prosthetic can take up to a week.
However, turnaround times for the 3-D-printed prosthetic limbs streamlines this process. TRT World explains how scanners can take an amputee’s measurements in minutes, reducing the construction of 3-D limbs to several hours.
3-D-printed prosthetic limbs are also convenient for child amputees because they are still growing. According to TRT World, prosthetic limbs have to accommodate for children getting taller and gaining and losing weight. 3-D models can be sized and adjusted for the patients’ particular necessities.
Another appeal specifically towards children is the variety of appearances that 3-D-printed limbs can take. The limbs often come in many different colors and designs. For example, the Cyborg Beast prosthetic hand designed by Jorge Zuniga is created specifically to look like a robot for the enjoyment of children.
However, 3-D-printed prosthetic limbs are not without their faults. According to The Guardian, the prosthetics are often too heavy to maneuver, and they can melt in high temperatures.
Regardless, 3-D printing technology is improving. Companies Po and Thalmic Labs, for example, have created the MyPo, which uses 3-D-printed prosthetic limbs and muscle and nerve-reading technology to simulate the movement of natural limbs.
In spite of their shortcomings, the technological advances show that 3-D-printed prosthetic limbs are worth the investment of time and resources.
– Cortney Rowe