We’ve seen birds, tortoises, lizards, and cats get a new lease on life thanks to 3D printed prosthetic limbs, but more often, it seems, we hear about puppies and dogs that benefit from the use of 3D printed prosthetics – though the technology doesn’t always end up being the right choice. Recently, Model Solution, a provider of precision prototyping, tooling, and lower volume manufacturing services with locations in California and South Korea, held its international 2017 Model One Awards (MOA), which recognize industrial design students for excellence in product design. This year, one of the winning designs was a new prosthetic leg for dogs called the Echo.
According to the company’s case study on the Echo, “When a dog loses a limb, it affects both the dog and the owner. Canines with such injuries can become depressed as their natural mobility and balance are compromised. Their owners can also be affected by seeing their ‘best friend’ hindered by such a horrible injury…
“The Echo prosthetic can have an incredibly positive effect on dogs both physically and mentally.”
The Echo prosthetic leg is designed to improve a dog’s balance and mobility, while also helping to avoid spinal issues and reducing unnecessary pressure on the body. As the prosthetic mimics the natural functions of a dog’s original leg, it has a very positive effect on the dog. Shubham Harish, a student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, developed the design for the canine prosthetic leg, with assistance and support from Model Solution, which has served a range of industries, including aerospace, consumer, and medical, since it was founded in 1993.
The company’s design team verified the Echo design for manufacturing, and helped Harish choose the best manufacturing processes and materials for prototyping. Harish initially suggested a selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing process, and carbon-fiber reinforced nylon, to make the main supporting structure strong and rigid, but the company suggested CNC machining the structure out of ABS, as it is hard to apply finishes to SLS 3D printed parts. However, the prosthetic is still considered to be 3D printable.
It is vitally important to determine the proper fit, form, and function of a prosthetic to see if it will work for a specific dog. Luckily, natural movement and comfort were kept in mind while designing the Echo prosthetic dog limb, and breathable materials, like soft pelite sponge foam and urethane, were used to make it, along with making sure it would be easy to fit and adjust to the dog.
The Echo prosthetic uses a ReMotion Knee joint, which creates and mimics the limb’s continuous back and forth movement with three steel springs. The fit is comfortable and tight, thanks to a vacuum suction socket and one-way liner, which are filled with small magnetic points. These points also help the dog get the prosthetic on while it’s connected to the docking station – when the dog’s stump is near the socket, the attraction between these points helps with the initial fit. Then, suction helps pull the stump the rest of the way in.
In addition to CNC machining, Model Solution also used wet-sanding, plating, and screen printing to build the prototype. The company was also concerned that certain rubber parts would experience shrinkage during manufacturing, and made them out of plastic instead, later painting them with soft-touch paint so they would still have a rubber-like feel, as Harish wanted.
According to the results of the case study, “The Echo provides dogs that have lost a limb with a prosthetic that mimics the functions of their original limb and feels natural as they use it. Considerations of comfort, natural movement, communication between the body and the new limb, the need for adjustments and proper fit, and the use of breathable materials have all been met by the Echo dog prosthetic, which is able to return confidence and happiness to both the dog and its owner.”
Model Solution was able to showcase its high-quality appearance model of the 3D printable Echo prosthetic canine leg at the 2017 IDSA International Design Conference in Atlanta this summer. The company is also working with different consumer electronics companies in order to produce similar prototypes in time for CES 2018 in Las Vegas next month.
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