3D printing is the future of product manufacturing. It minimises waste materials, it is portable and it is fast. 3D printing prosthetic legs is not a new idea. Recently Derby the dog received his very own pair of 3D printed legs and now spends all his time wearing out his owners.
Design and production, until the advent of 3D printing, was a slow and painstaking exercise. Specialist machinery would have to be built, calibrated, and when the production cycle was over, thrown away. With 3D printing, that’s all changed.
3D printed prosthetic legs can be produced quickly and cost effectively. More importantly, they can be tailored for the amputee. As the leg is printed to a specific design a lot of redundant parts can be removed making the leg lighter and easier to use.
The Exo is just one example of 3D printing not only making the production of prosthetic legs quicker and more affordable, but more functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Another huge advantage is the portability of 3D printers. Though they aren’t exactly small, they are far easier to transport than an entire prosthetic limb workshop.
This is fantastic when having to supply prosthetics to amputees in remote areas. It allows for a rapid and effective deployment of help which will not leave the recipient waiting for months, instead a leg can be produced in just hours and one that is perfect for the task.
One of the key ideas behind Legs4Africa is making the old new. We take one person’s rubbish and make it another’s treasure. Currently 3D printing, despite minimising waste, is still resource hungry. Companies such as dimension polymers are looking to minimise the use of new materials by recycling old. They are producing plastics which are both affordable and 95% recycled.
It is possible to take it one step further by use of a Recycle bot which creates the recycled filament on the spot to be used in a 3D printer. Now this is tech we like.
Picture this… An African village baking in the sun. A van equipped with solar panels is parked outside a dilapidated house, a man and a woman are talking with a young girl who is missing her leg, her pensive father looks on.
Other children, those who are able, run through the streets collecting waste plastics, bottles, bags and containers and unceremoniously deposit them at the rear door of the van. The woman takes up the fallen rubbish and drops it into a purpose built hopper which happily hums whilst, at the same time, the man is measuring the length of the little girls remaining leg, her stump and her height. Her eyes are wide as she watches the woman work.
With the measurements done, the man types out a few commands on a computer and another machine gets busy all running from solar powered batteries. After a few minutes he opens a hatch and a leg has magically appeared… A perfectly formed, perfectly customised leg for the little girl whose mouth is hanging open perfectly mirroring the expression on her father’s face.
This is the next step. With such technology and the generosity of people like you we can really make a difference to people’s lives and give them the freedom to live independently. Follow us every step of the way either on Facebook or twitter and sign up for our newsletter.
Together we can take the first step to a more mobile world.