The process of making a comfortable limb prosthesis is a tedious one. With the introduction of different methods and emerging solutions over the past few years, the field of prosthetic development has seen significant improvements. 3D printed prosthesis is also gradually becoming a part of the prosthetic industry. In traditional approaches, vacuum forming, and casting are used to produce prosthetics parts like sockets and limbs.
3D printing is also establishing itself as a viable substitute for conventional methods. High precision, adaptability, and small batch production are preferred, especially for complex tasks such as fitting prosthetics to the patient. Many companies have already achieved success with bionic limbs replacements and 3D-printed prostheses. Prosthesis manufacturers and start-ups create designs for 3D printed parts from scratch. It means that there is a design evaluation phase before prosthetic testing and medical certification.
As with any new invention, prosthetics and bionics also require multiple prototype iterations. 3D printing is ideal for rapid prototyping. It is accurate, cost-effective, and allows for the quick creation of high-quality parts.
Researchers use 3D printing extensively to create 3D printed prosthesis and bionic prototypes. Bionic prostheses are intricate devices that require a lot of fine-tuning and adjustments before the final design. In some cases, prototypes are created to assess the functionality, while others are meant to determine the shape and aesthetics. For instance, a prosthetic hand design would require both features. Functional prototypes help test the movement of the fingers when squeezing.
Aesthetic prototypes can help the designers visualize the general look of the prosthetic hands. For both reasons, 3D printing is an ideal solution for creating prototypes. With a 3D printer, designers and researchers can quickly and effectively create the next iteration of a project. It makes the transition from product to production much more manageable. Once the basic design is achieved, a prosthetic socket must be adapted to each patient's specific needs.
Prosthetic sockets are used to connect the patient's body part to the prosthesis. Since this outlet is the interaction point between the patient's skin and the rest of the prosthetic component, it should be snug enough for the wearer while also offering support and firmness. A qualified prosthetist usually creates the design of the sockets. Prosthodontists are medical experts who develop models for outlets. 3D printed prosthesis are customized to fit and meet the specific needs of individual patients comfortably.
Traditionally, the manufacturing of a socket starts with an extensive consultation. The prosthetist takes measurements and addresses any specific needs. A test socket is then fabricated over several weeks, and the patient is asked to test the fit. Based on user feedback and prosthetic observations, a final socket is assembled. This manufacturing process has shifted to the utilization of more sophisticated technologies, like 3D scanning. This makes it easier to capture the intricate structure of the patient's limb.
Advantages of 3D Printed Prosthesis
The 3D printing industry is proliferating, and many production sectors around the world are enjoying its advantages. The medical field has also experienced the application of 3D printed solutions. 3D prosthetic printing is among the many ways that technology has benefited this industry. 3D prosthetic printing has helped people with disabilities, children, amputees, and many others. Here are some of the most notable advantages of 3D printed prosthetics.
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Low Production Cost
The cost of creating a hand prosthesis with a 3D printer can be as low as $100. It is a fraction of the expense of a traditional hand prosthesis, which usually costs between $5,000 and $25,000. 3D printing is an economical way to give the wearers, especially those who cannot afford the high-end options, a chance at feeling normal. It helps the less fortunate get an opportunity to have a prosthetic limb, with although limited, but similar capabilities of regular limbs.
Sizing can be quickly done using photo and measurement devices. This approach is often used by initiatives like e-NABLE that make hand prostheses for kids in developing nations. Places where getting a mold is not possible. However, if 3D scanning and modeling are not used to ensure the perfect fitting with the affected limb, the prosthesis may not fit correctly.
Quick Production Time
3D printed prostheses can be produced quickly, especially when compared to conventional options. Once the design is tested and tried, the 3D printed prosthesis can be created in less than a day, instead of the traditional prostheses production time, which can take several weeks or months to manufacture. On top of that, patients may have to wait even longer due to the medical waiting lists.
With the help of 3D printing, you can create a leg prosthesis that meets your personal preferences and needs. Whether you want a simple custom color or need a 3D-printed prosthesis to work in a particular way, with CAD modeling and 3D printing, you can create designs that meet the specific needs and can be effortlessly customized.
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Besides, 3D printers are increasingly able to use more materials, such as lightweight titanium, to improve durability. These advancements show that the future of printed 3D prosthesis looks exciting and promising.
Adapt with Growth
On average, the traditional prosthesis has a lifespan of about five years, but as a child grows older, the need for replacement prostheses becomes more prevalent. As for the costs, this is a considerable burden on the families. Luckily, with the comfort and inexpensiveness of manufacture, replication of printed 3D prostheses is not a problem.
Comfortable to Wear
Standard prostheses are usually not very comfortable for the user, with most amputees claiming to have experienced discomfort. 3D printing solutions aim to provide the ultimate answer to these issues. CAD software and user anatomical data allow designers to create a perfect base for a prosthesis. In addition, using 3D printing techniques with a variety of materials makes it possible to create sockets that conform more naturally to the human body, making the prosthetic more comfortable.
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