The growth of additive manufacturing (AM) in the medical field is pretty amazing. For example, doctors are looking at ways to use AM for the bioprinting of new organs, and you may have heard about the jawbone that was created for a patient through selective laser melting. Each time I dive into the Internet to bring you good people news, it seems like the medical community has come up with a new way of using AM.
Today’s case is more aesthetic than medical, but that shouldn’t be underestimated. People who feel good about how they look are likely to be happier than people who are uncomfortable. Bespoke Innovations has taken this philosophy to heart and, through the power of AM, has created what they call prosthetic Fairings.
A Fairing is a covering for a prosthetic leg that is designed to emulate the shape of the human body. Bespoke uses a 3D scanner to capture the shape of a client’s leg. The company then uses CAD software to adjust and reverse the image, creating a kind of duplicate, virtual leg. For bilateral amputees, Bespoke looks for volunteers with similar features as its customer and creates a scan to be ‘donated’ to the cause.
With the scan complete, the client chooses the materials used to construct the Fairing. Available materials include leather, ballistic nylon fabric and chrome plating. The company also allows for designs to be included on the Fairing, creating patterns or approximating tattoos. All the available options allow a customer to create something that goes beyond functional, instead becoming a personal statement.
Once the design has been finalized, Bespoke sends the file to 3D Systems to be printed. The result is a Fairing that weighs an average of 6.6 ounces (depending on materials used) and costs between $4,000 to $6,000. Currently insurance doesn’t cover the purchase of a Fairing, but Bespoke hopes to work with prosthetists and insurance companies to help defray the cost.
Bespoke is also developing whole leg replacements that integrate the art of Fairings with a prosthetic limb into single whole. As well as being fantastic for owners, this type of AM shows the versatility of the technology, especially in end-user content. 3D printing allows for on-demand manufacturing in a way that would be hideously expensive through more traditional methods.
Below you’ll find a TED video featuring company creator Scott Summit.