Mechanical Engineer Launches Campaign to Provide 3D Printed Breast Prostheses to 1,000 Women in Need

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It’s October, which means that Halloween is upon us. But more importantly than candy and ghouls, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease, and I would hazard a guess that many people have been affected by breast cancer, whether it’s someone they know or receiving a diagnosis themselves. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, and the most commonly misdiagnosed cancer in women as well. On average, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes, with one woman dying of breast cancer every 13 minutes.

Nneile Nkholise [Image: South Africa News Today]

From detection and diagnosis to prosthetics and implants, research to fundraising and awareness, 3D printing technology has been used often to help in the fight against breast cancer. Mechanical engineering technologist and social entrepreneur Nneile Nkholise is from South Africa, and works with manufacturing and prosthetic design to create artificial, 3D printed breast forms, in an effort to relieve the trauma suffered by women who have had mastectomies.

Nkholise founded a company in the Free State town of Thaba Schu in 2015, called the iMedTech Group, that uses 3D printing technology to manufacture breast prostheses.

“I’m passionate about technology and innovation in the healthcare and education sector,” Nkholise said.

She thought up the idea while studying and researching mechanical engineering for her Master’s degree at the Central University of Technology. She learned that women who have had a mastectomy could benefit from the same processes that are used to help patients with facial deformities and burn victims.

Her company uses innovative 3D modeling software to design the prostheses, which are then printed out layer by life-changing layer for breast cancer survivors in South Africa; silicone is then added inside. Nkholise is currently working on a very ambitious new goal: provide 1,000 3D printed breast prostheses to 1,000 women who would otherwise be unable to afford one.

[Image: Nneile Nkholise via Twitter]

Nkholise and iMedTech Group are 3D printing the artificial breast replacements at a much lower cost than usual, which helps in her commitment to use emerging technology to solve social challenges – in South Africa, breast prostheses are not that common. She wants to make sure that medical products are easily accessible to the people in her country who need them the most.

“Health is critical to nation building,” Nkholise said.

It looks like Neyne Breast Prosthetics is lending a hand to the cause, and from the looks of a video about her work, it appears that Nkholise uses a Zortrax M200 3D printer to produce the prostheses. She also uses 3D printers to make components for a game she created, called Minute Words, that’s used to make building vocabulary more fun for students in primary school.

As we know, it’s not always easy to be a minority in the tech field, but Nkholise isn’t letting that get in her way of changing the perception the world seems to have about what women, especially women from small towns, can do to improve technological advancements. Her company mainly hires African women, younger than 30, who have research experience in mechanical engineering.

Last year, she was recognized at the World Economic Forum as one of the top female innovators from Africa, and also represented her country at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in San Francisco. Nkholise has also participated in the Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Discovery Entrepreneurs MedTech Silicon Valley program, and was the subject of a feature in Forbes Africa Women magazine.

When asked about her future plans, Nkholise told fin 24, “I am passionate about cancer and would one day want to open a research centre for breast cancer because I am already rooted in research.”

“Right now my focus is on growing the company, building a strong team. It’s not just about creating the product, it’s about the research too.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: Beautiful News]

 

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