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Fabrilab Provides 3D Printed Superhero Prosthetics to Children in Colombia

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3D printing has become a standard tool in the creation of prosthetics. What isn’t so standardized is the hundreds of creative ideas that are being developed, adopted, and adapted by those using this tool to create them. Just when we think we’ve seen everything, there’s another story that merits attention either because of what has been created, who has created it, or the recipient it was created for. This story is interesting for all three of those reasons.

In this case, the folks doing the creating are part of a Colombian company called Fabrilab, founded by engineer Christian Silva, which got its start in 2015 as a business dedicated to providing prostheses for amputees. But what they are creating is no ordinary prosthetic. Instead, they are working with children to help create their own, personalized prosthetics that mimic the attributes of their favorite superheroes. Using 3D printing lets them more easily customize the prosthetic and ensure a good fit both physically and emotionally, an aspect that can be overlooked when creating traditional prosthetics. In addition, it allows them to create the artificial limbs using recycled materials. As general manager at Fabrilab Yusef Muñoz discussed:

“With our personalized prostheses, children feel more accepted. A child with a missing limb is an easy target at school for being mocked or bullied. With a special superhero prosthesis, it’s converted into an object that generates pride and admiration. These kids become instant superstars.”

It’s not just the prosthetics themselves that are making a difference, but the cost of obtaining one is putting it within reach of a much wider audience. A traditional prosthetic might cost as much as $25,000 USD and offer little or no functionality. Those created by Fabrilab are sold for between $250 and $500 each and offer some functionality to boot, with an ability to grasp ordinary objects. Even with that greatly reduced price tag, however, the prosthetics are out of reach to many, as they cost approximately the same as a month’s worth of minimum wage in Colombia. In cases where there is a child who needs the prosthetic but the family is unable to pay, Fabrilab works to provide a sponsor in order to get the device to the child and they also accept ongoing donations to help offset costs.

Developing a prosthetic for children requires a collaboration among those with the technical know-how to produce them and those with the expertise in what children’s bodies need from such a device. It is in this vein that Fabrilab works with Manuela Beltrán University, as well as other orthopedic institutes, to create the most practical and useful prosthetic for children in need. Currently, they are not able to offer the prosthetics to the general public, as company founder Silva explained:

“At the moment we are in the midst of obtaining official certification for our prostheses from the Colombian Health Register. As long as we don’t have this, they cannot be officially sold. Once this has been achieved, they will be available for the larger public, through the National Health Superintendent EPS, its hospitals, and other companies.”

There’s a pay it forward aspect to the prosthetics as well with many children expressing a desire to provide prosthetics for children in need when they grow up. And in fact, the company began as a result of a personal experience with prosthetics after Silva’s cousin lost his own hand in an accident in 2004.

While the prosthetics themselves can be fabricated in less than a day, the demand for them is so high that the wait time is approximately a week. All things considered, that’s still a pretty fast turnaround, especially in comparison to the amount of time it would take to create them with traditional manufacturing methods.

Currently the company only produces prosthetics for those with missing hands or arms but they are beginning to expand their explorations to develop prosthetics for use in the lower body as well. The popularity of the undertaking has earned it attention and interest from around the world and there are currently talks of expanding into Spain and Argentina. In terms of other future plans, the team at Fabrilab are hoping to develop prosthetics which can actually integrate with the wearer’s nervous system to create a bionic type arm that would make the limb even more functional, something that would be certain to interest a much larger audience both in terms of users and investors.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source/Images: The Bogotá Post]

 

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