One area which has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of 3D printing, has been that of low cost prosthetic devices. For the most part, these devices have been primarily prosthetic hands, thanks in part to organizations such as E-nabling The Future, who offer free designs for such devices.
Certainly there are quite a large number of people who can benefit from affordable prosthetic hands, oftentimes at prices tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than traditional prosthetic devices. With that said, there are other areas of prosthetics which can certainly see tremendous gains, thanks in part to 3D printing. One such area is that of facial implants such as the nose. There are thousands of people who have lost a large portion, or their entire nose due to accident or medical conditions/ailments like cancer. For these individuals, leaving their home can be a nightmare, even if they do have some sort of prosthetic. This is because it is very difficult to secure a majority of these devices on the face, leaving open the possibility of a slight brushing or hit knocking the prosthetic off, breaking it, or even worse injuring the wearer. Imaging being in a public place when suddenly your nose falls off. The anxiety of such an occurrence can lead many individuals to simply stay at home.
A Victoria University School of Design, master’s student Zach Challies, wants to change all this with the help of 3D printing. Challies has created a device which has put him in the running for an $80,000 international design competition called the James Dyson Award.
The device, a 3D printed shock-absorbing scaffold which secures to the face via a magnetic system, fits into a prosthetic nose facade, ensuring the wearer that embarrassing mishaps will not likely occur. First, the patient must have a 3D scan taken of their face to create a model specifically for them. Challies and his team used an Artec Spider scanner, and the Rhino 5 plug-in for Grasshopper to make changes to the models and ensure a tight fit during facial movement. Magnets are implanted into the patients face in three areas, and the scaffold fits in securely before connecting to a prosthetic nose, which Challies also is 3D printing.
“It’s just nice to raise the awareness of this condition, this day-to-day struggle of someone who has to wear a prosthesis,” stated Challies.
A typical prosthetic system costs in excess of $1000, but Challies feels that his nose, and scaffold can be 3D printed for less than 10% of this price. The prosthetic also eliminates many other problems seen with traditional devices. Challies devices are stronger, more resilient, and far less noticeable because of the customization available via 3D scanning and printing. Additionally, it’s very easy to create a near-perfect fit without the need for expensive consultation. In fact, the prosthetic system works so well that those wearing it could participate in contact sports such as rugby and football without major worry, according to Challies. They are, however, looking into some alternate shapes for nose facades targeted to those who play a lot of sports. Such a nose would have a shorter profile to reduce its risk of being struck. If someone wanted to, they could have a 3D printed sports nose, as well as an every-day nose.
It is so wonderful to be able to read about people like Challies who are thinking outside the box, using their knowledge of technologies like 3D printing to make the lives of those less fortunate feel less anxious in a public setting, and more confident about their appearances.
Let’s hear your thoughts on the work Challies and his team are doing in the 3D printed nose and scaffold forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below that Challies has uploaded, explaining his work a bit more.
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