Jamie Lannister of Game of Thrones. [Image: HBO]

While Game of Thrones’ Jamie Lannister may wear a prosthetic hand made of solid gold, most prostheses are made from far more common materials, but not all are any more practical. Instead, the history of prosthetics has seen uneven development over a long period of time of replacements for body parts lost or never had – from the first documented wearer of a prosthetic hand, General Marcus Sergius who lost his hand in the second Punic War (218 – 201 BCE) to a hand with electronic control over each individual finger created in 2017 by researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology that allowed its wearer to play the piano.

That history is what makes up an exhibit put together as a collaborative effort between the Design Museum Portland and the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), entitled Bespoke Bodies. The exhibit traces history from the mid-15th century to today, with some antique prostheses that look more like props in a Tim Burton movie than something that a person would regularly wear.

eNABLE display showcasing a few of the designs created by the organization to help provide prosthetics to those with limb differences.

But while the history of prosthetics is long and fascinating – did you know the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe had a prosthetic nose worn to replace the one he lost in a duel over mathematics? – the majority of this exhibit is centered on the contributions that 3D printing and DIY have made to prosthetics in recent years, showcasing arms that shoot glitter, superhero arms, and even prosthetics made for animals. A piece of the exhibit also displays a small part of the work done by e-NABLE, probably the most famous name in the 3D printed prosthetic provision to date. Sam Aquillano, Executive Director of Design Museum Foundation, explained the drive behind the exhibit:

“Bespoke Bodies is all about innovation and impact. At the Design Museum we’re focused on how design impacts people’s lives and this awe-inspiring work is making a difference for so many – but so few people know about it. We know people will find these incredible human stories and engineering marvels inspirational on many levels.”

Display featuring Born Just Right’s Jordan Reeves and her Project Unicorn design.

As the curators of the exhibit explained, an estimated 30 – 100 million people live with limb-loss and yet only between 5 and 15% of them have access to prosthetics. This is why organizations such as e-NABLE are so important and so valuable. Their continued efforts to provide prosthetics to those in need have been, in no small way, enabled by the development of 3D printing technologies. The ability to freely disseminate the designs for their prosthetics so that they can be printed anywhere there is access to a 3D printer has exponentially expanded their impact.

The exhibit, which contains 35 case studies in contemporary prosthetics including a 3D printed toucan beak and 3D printed dog prosthetics, will be on display from February 15th to May 9th and will run along with events, such as a Paralympic viewing party, and speakers ranging from clinicians to users to community organizers.

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 or share your thoughts below. 

[Source/Images: e-NABLE]

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