3D Printed Prosthetics

3D Printed Prosthetics

3D printed prosthetics

If you can think it, you can make it” – that is basically how 3D printing works.  It starts with a thought that leads to a design and the printer does the rest.  What used to be complicated and require excessive prototyping time, can now be produced at a fraction of the time and cost.  Prosthetics are very unique to each individual; with 3D printing technology unique geometries can be easily achieved faster than ever.

Students at Auburn University used their Markforged 3D printer to develop prototypes of prosthetics and were able to test concepts in the field faster by having access to their 3D printing scanners and printers.  The professor of Industrial Design at Auburn’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design, Jerrod Windham, leads his students in class a through a nine year program to work with clients with physical disabilities to build specific prosthetics for each individual.

“Our goal at the beginning of the semester is to work with a client user and by the end of the semester hand off a piece of technology that will work for them,” –Professor Windham

The project focus is on meeting the unique needs and desires of their clients to enhance their lives through prosthetic devices.  This year, through the assistance of devices developed in the program,  they helped a woman play the cello again and a man to wear pants again. One of the value propositions of 3D printed prosthetic is the ease of customization, iteration and form fitting.  Markforged industrial strength materials provide the necessary strength and design flexibility to achieve these goals. Continuous filament carbon fiber and composite reinforced materials are popular with prosthetic because of a very favorable strength to weight ratio.

Working with the cello player, they needed to fit the wearer’s shoulder blade to their prototype prosthetic. The team used a 3D scanner for the exact profile of her shoulder so that a 3D printed prosthetic shell would fit perfectly.

“We were able to scan in her shoulder and body and utilize software to build a shell that covered her shoulder and a portion of her chest and shoulder blade. If we were to do that out of PLA or ABS, it would be to brittle and would probably degrade a lot quicker.” Professor Windham

Another gentleman they were able to help wanted to be able to play basketball with his son again and shake people’s hands and with the aid from the students at Auburn University, his dream came true. Markforged composite fiber materials have strength properties unlike any other 3D printer materials, that gives to these client’s precisely what they need. Every client they encounter has a different and unique needs that challenge the students to to find novel solutions to complex problems; whether the need is for water resistance, high heat tolerance, fatigue resistance or flexibility, the Markforged 3D printer has been able to provide a solution.  

“Durability was a question. It was a big concern, especially if you’re handing stuff off to children. Markforged has given us confidence to pursue this as a legitimate means of fabricating prosthetic devices…a real long term solution.” – Jerrod Windham


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