By: Heather Tackett
It is safe to say that most industries these days are searching for the quickest and most cost-efficient ways to develop their business. The medical industry is no stranger to this concept and thanks to advancements in 3D printing, ideas that once seemed futuristic and far off, are now becoming more and more of a reality.
All eyes are turned now to 3D printing and prosthetics. Recently in the news, a 17-year old high-school student developed a functional prosthetic arm and hand using additive manufacturing. This student discovered that having his arm rapid prototyped with 3D printing was a much more cost-efficient and inexpensive way to have it created. What typically would have cost him $10,000+ using traditional manufacturing was made for only a fraction of the cost through 3D Printing.
So what does this mean for the medical industry? Due to the nature of 3D printing, prosthetics can be developed faster, fully customized and delivered to patients in critical need of them in almost half the time. This advancement provides amputees a more readily available solution to help them get back to their normal everyday lives.
Children born with disabilities can especially benefit from these prosthetics because as we all know, children grow quickly, and it would be easy to quickly print the prosthetic to an appropriate size to fit the child’s needs. Humans aren’t the only species benefiting from 3D printed prosthetics, prosthetic animal limbs have also been created to help animals that were injured or possibly born without limbs. Buttercup, a small duck that was born last year with a backwards foot was given a chance to waddle normally again thanks to 3D printing. His owner /Cad engineer designed and replicated a fully functional prosthetic foot. Photos of Buttercup’s sister’s foot were used to 3D print a mold, which was then used to cast silicone prosthesis.
The greatest part of it all is that the new advancements in this technology are happening today. We often refer to 3D printing as a technology that is developing and will be helpful “someday”. Well, the technology is here and can be applied towards the betterment of human life as we know it.