Few things can compare to the trauma of losing a limb. 3D printing has come a long way in improving prosthetics and making them more affordable, but for an amputee, having an artificial limb where there used to be a real one is still a major, emotional transition.
Companies such as Create Prosthetics are now trying to make that transition easier. The Lake Placid, New York-based business recently launched its first line of 3D printed, customized prosthetic leg covers, also known as fairings.
“More and more amputees are seeking prosthetics and covers that display their individuality and style,” said CEO Jeff Erenstone. “Through 3D printing we are able to manufacture customized prosthetics in numerous colors while also embossing personalized images and patterns on the devices. For too long prosthetic leg covers have been either hard to work with and uninspired, or too expensive. We can now offer lightweight, flexible, customized covers that are affordable and attractive.”
Create Prosthetics offers four options: Natural, Ready-Wear, Personalized and Custom covers. Natural covers, as their name suggests, create a look that is as close as possible to the wearer’s natural leg, while Ready-Wear come in an assortment of artful designs and colors. Wearers who choose the Custom look can work with one of the company’s designers to create their own designs, while Personalized goes a step further, allowing customers to emboss images, such as photographs, on their covers. A family photograph on a prosthetic leg goes a long way toward making an amputee feel less alienated from their new limb.
“That is the unique thing about us. A, the materials we’re using, being soft and flexible versus rigid, and B, the ability to, in a two week turnaround someone could come in and say ‘here’s a picture of my kids, can you put that on my leg?’ And we can say, yes we can,” Erenstone told WCAX.
Create Prosthetics isn’t alone in the customized prosthetic cover market; companies such as Art4Leg and UNYQ have also been in the news for their personalized covers. What sets Create Prosthetics apart, they say, is their Flexy Fit Prosthetics material, designed to be more flexible, lightweight and durable than other covers. Covers made from the Flexy Fit material weigh less than a shoe and conform to the wearer’s natural shape.
“We can manipulate the covers into a variety of shapes and sizes to fit a client’s desires,” said Chief Design Officer Arthur Hobden. “By speaking directly with prosthetists and their patients we are able to design a totally unique cover that captures the individuality of the amputee.”
A prosthetic leg cover is about $500, but mostly coverable by insurance. Once a design is settled on, a customer can expect to receive the finished product in about two weeks. The company will shortly be offering covers for prosthetic hands as well. In August, Create Prosthetics won sixth place out of 94 entries in the VA Innovation Prosthetic Attachment Challenge for their “Hookhand Remixing Platform” that allows for multiple attachments to be easily applied to a prosthetic hand. Currently, the files are open source, and improvement and augmentation are encouraged.
Feedback from customers suggests that by designing their own customized prosthetic covers, amputees are not only accepting their new limbs but are taking pride in them as pieces of art, much like tattoos, that show their personalities and experiences.
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