We’ve seen the creation of beautiful, artistic prosthetics using 3D printing as well as the production of high-tech, high-function prosthetic devices. Some people would simply like something that looks less like it came out of the special effects department of a big budget Hollywood studio. The irony, of course, is that to make something that looks natural may be the most challenging special effect of all.
Italian sculptor and prosthetics maker Erica Buzzi has been working for several years, in collaboration with orthopedic technicians and a group of other artisans interested in this area, to create high definition silicone prosthetics. Rather than approaching the creation of these prosthetics as an opportunity only available to those with significant amounts of money to throw at it, Buzzi is hoping to continue to refine the process in such a way that the costs will be lowered and the pieces will be much more widely available.
“The Italian National Health System doesn’t cover these kinds of prosthetics or only minimally compared to the market prices. My goal was to find the best technology at the lowest cost to apply to the production of silicone prosthesis for amputees. And maybe, at the same time, to provide prostheses at lower costs because most of the time this type of prosthesis are very expensive and [purchased] at the expense of the patient.”
This expense is so high partly because the technology used to create them is not yet part of the mainstream prosthetics production process. This means that the volume at which the prosthetics can be produced is too low to exert a downward pressure of the price. As the people become aware of the availability of such high-quality pieces, a rise in demand should lead to greater production and even higher quality. Or at least, that’s Buzzi’s hope.
In the meantime, she is working to refine the process for their creation. Luckily, unlike the amoeba, the human body is generally symmetrical and therefore there exists mirror image of the portion of the body to be imitated by the prosthetic. The first task therefore is to get a sufficiently accurate and detailed scan of the mirrored absent portion of the human body.
Buzzi described the difficulties in just this step alone:
“Locat[ing] a scanner to make silicone implants [in] high definition is still not a simple thing. There are several scanners on the market, but not yet [one] suitable for this specific use…Either they are too expensive and thus out of business or not sufficiently accurate in reporting the details of the skin, folds, and wrinkles and maintaining measures.”
Despite these difficulties, Buzzi is making progress towards developing a process that allows for maximum success given the available technologies. From the medium definition scan, a mold for the prosthesis is 3D printed on a Delta Wasp 20 x 40 with a definition of .1 mm. The mold itself is created in PLA and then filled with gypsum to create a hardened model over which silicone is applied. The prosthetic is then hand finished for details from skin color matching to the addition of things such as toe or finger nails.
You have to admit that these are pretty amazing prosthetics and Buzzi has high hopes for the continued advancement and broadened distribution capability of these pieces. Her next goal is to secure the funding to develop sustainable prosthetics production procedures and to work to provide these prosthetics to children in developing areas whose countries may not yet be aligned with the advances provided by these technologies.
What are your thoughts on these prosthetics? Let us know in the 3D Printed Silicone Prosthetic forum thread on 3DPB.com.
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third party vendors.
You May Also Like
Biden Admin Announces Flurry of Reshoring Actions, Including Council on Supply Chain Resilience
Yesterday, I posted about the over $6 billion in new funding for US advanced manufacturing related to batteries and semiconductor packaging announced by the Biden administration to be awarded in...
Biden Admin Announces Over $6 Billion in Funding for Battery and Chip Advanced Manufacturing in November
In a development that has become routine for the Biden administration, the White House announced a total of more than $6 billion in new funding opportunities for advanced manufacturing applications...
America Makes and NCDMM Funding Now Tops $729M for American 3D Printing and Beyond
In a significant move to advance the U.S. manufacturing sector, the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) and America Makes have recently announced substantial ceiling increases on their...
US Army Reserve Test 3D Printed Explosives
In October 2023, US Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the 102nd Training Division (Maneuver Support) attended a two-week Combat Engineer Reclassification Course at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where they...
Upload your 3D Models and get them printed quickly and efficiently.