We’ve heard stories about prosthetic limbs being produced using 3D printing, but what is often overlooked are the number of people who are missing fingers or toes who might also want a prosthetic. Surprisingly, there are only a couple of companies that build prosthetic fingers and toes despite the fact that somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 people are missing one or the other.
One of those people, Brian Jordan, decided that he was going to work to create some prosthetic fingers with the idea that maybe it would create a more widely affordable option. It began because of an accident with a saw in his garage at home that left him without parts of his index finger and thumb. He started working to develop a prototype and created a not-for-profit company called Robiotech Corp. After working on developing his ideas for some time, he approached Tony Ingelido, lab manager at the MakerBot Innovation Center at the University of Maryland, to see if 3D printing could play a role in the continuing development of the prosthetics.
Indeed it could, as Ingelido elaborated:
“Brian is not a doctor, not a surgeon, not a medical device guru by any stretch of the imagination. He’s someone who had a problem and he developed something that worked very well for him and was very effective. In that way, he was a perfect fit for us. What was taking him a very long time to do over the course of six months, we had repeated and sent back to him in two weeks.”
The increase in speed in the development process leads Jordan to hope to be able to test a fully functioning prototype by the year’s end. After successful testing, the next phase in his plan is to register the device with the FDA. This registration would mean that it would possibly be covered by insurance, helping to get the prosthetic to individuals who need it at a more cost-effective rate – or even for free. Working with the MakerBot lab is helping this vision become a reality, as Jordan explained:
“There are only about two companies that build prosthetic fingers. You would think there would be a lot more, but there really aren’t many options. It’s not like legs and arms…It’s been fantastic, absolutely fantastic working with them. They totally got it right away. I told them what we wanted to do, they said, ‘We got it.’ A day later, they had something for me.”
This kind of response comes from a combination of experience and youthful enthusiasm. The MakerBot Innovation Center at the University of Maryland which opened last year, is staffed by 30 – 35 students who bring a fresh set of eyes and an energy to the space that makes things happen. With these two elements in place, all that was needed was a little insight from someone with a problem that needed to be resolved. Discuss this topic further in the 3D Printed Finger Prosthetics forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: BTN]