While an accident can cause the loss of a limb or hand before one truly realizes what’s happened, today 3D printed prosthetics can be created almost as quickly to reverse some of the challenge–and without a lab or as much expense. Many are getting involved in this process today because the designs can be created and fabricated easily, and the positive impact they have on a life is certainly monumental.
Now, 3D printed prosthetics are making a splash in the NDSU Innovation Challenge, an annual competition put on by the North Dakota State University Research and Technology Park in partnership with the NDSU Office of the Provost. This is their seventh year offering the challenge, with the purpose to see students opening their minds and innovating, while exploring and pursuing their entrepreneurial sides. Oh, and wait–prizes are involved too. Always a motivating force, those entering can look forward to winning $27,000 in cash prizes with $5K going to first place innovations, $1K to second, and $500 for third place winners.
Those entering the competition are given the tall order of creating notable innovations that have the capability of making the world a better place. One of the contestants is a standout so far, highlighted as he has already worked wonders with 3D printing to give a Haitian man a new lease on life. Just recently he actually traveled all the way to Haiti also, to personally do the final fittings on the 3D printed prosthetic for Jaqueline Joseph, who is missing one arm due to a childhood accident.
Traveling to Joseph’s country with the Fargo Moorhead Haiti Medical Mission, Cooper was well prepared for the trip as he’d already been able to make the prosthetic ahead of time.
“We were able to get prelim measurements over Facebook,” said Cooper. “He sent pictures of himself next to a tape measure. Once we got down there, [we] put it in hot water and molded it to the limb.”
The whole process was so successful that the young Haitian man is now able to grip and carry things with his new prosthetic–most likely something he did not ever imagine being able obtain or afford. And that’s Cooper’s goal with these 3D printed prosthetics–and his theme in the NDSU Innovation Challenge–to show how effective and easily these replacement limbs can be fabricated, and at a fraction of the cost.
His goal with the project overall is indeed to see prices for prosthetics lowered all around. While many specialists have a hard time making such enormous changes and departing from the traditional, the disparity in costs is just too much to ignore–with their new 3D printed products costing around $10,000 as opposed to devices that can be as much as a staggering $100,000.
“70% of the market is in third world countries, and most of them have no access or cannot afford prosthetics. So if we can provide limbs to people it will change their lives and may be able to do more than they can do now,” said Bierscheid.
The mission is to effect change and to improve the quality of life for as many as possible through the company he has created, Protosthetics, with another student at NDSU.
“3D printing is fun and cool, but that is not why I am doing this, I want to help people,” he said.
Cooper and his team have also developed another arm previously, the Printed Artificial Limb (PAL), which has been given to a three-year-old boy. That device is somewhat more complex though in that it involves bioelectronics, requiring charging–which could be a questionable process in a third-world country. The latest prosthetic was one that Cooper came up with during an exhausting finals week at school. He mastered the design taking breaks from studying, and constructing it out of 3D printed parts, as well as a PVC pipe.
“I can’t believe I came up with it,” Cooper says.
His team, along with a long list of others in multiple categories (agriculture, products, services, social impact) has made it to the semi-finals of the contest, which ends on February 25th with final presentations. This challenge is open to all NDSU undergraduate and graduate students. Discuss this latest challenge in the 3D Printed Prosthetics Highlighted in NDSU Contest forum over at 3DPB.com.[Sources: Emerging Prairie; WDAY]