South Africa: Research in 3D Printing at VUT for Prosthetics, DfAM

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A patient in South Africa recently received a 3D printed prosthetic leg as a result of a collaboration and workshop between The Arc. Rehabilitation Centre in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, and the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) Science Park Design Department in Gauteng, South Africa.

As a patient of Dr. Heinrich Grimsehl, Mark Poole received a 3D printed socket component made of carbon for his below-the-knee amputation. Dr. Grimsehl is experienced in the development of prosthetics and looked into taking advantage of some of the well-known benefits of 3D printing for creating a new limb for his patient.

While so many industries today have instilled 3D printing in their manufacturing processes due to the ability to make lightweight components and do so quickly, in the medical field, prosthetics are often made via 3D printing due to the exponential savings on the bottom line, along with an extremely fast turnaround time—not to mention the opportunity to sometimes create objects or devices that would not have been possible previously. We have followed countless instances where 3D printed prosthetics have made a huge difference in the quality of life for a patient who has lost a limb.

VUT Science Park Design Team, Patient and the Doctor

The Arc. was able to make a mold of the patient’s residual limb, and then created a test socket for him to wear, evaluating comfort and accuracy as he used it. Once the designers and medical teams involved were convinced it was a good fit for the long term, they made a 3D printed socket which was attached to the rest of the necessary hardware for his prosthetic leg.

Along with this project, VUT and other teams from companies such as Idea 2 Product and Casting Simulation were also involved in a recent Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) workshop, ongoing for two days in late January—and presented by Bryan Bullock of Rapid3D, headquartered in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. His presentation discussed the following:

  • Typical AM design problems and solutions
  • Suitability of 3D printing technology and materials
  • How a 3D printed part is designed
  • Focus on various constraints in 3D printing

“The DfAM workshop was very beneficial. All the previous Additive Manufacturing knowledge I had acquired was from engineers working on the machines and not designers designing for the processes, so it was insightful from a design perspective,” said designer Pako Magagane, also mentioning that from now on she will be using 3D printing instead of being swayed by other suggestions regarding more conventional technology.

“Instead of applying knowledge learned for conventional manufacturing processes like injection moulding or rotational moulding, I can now apply the new knowledge learned through this course.”

The workshop was meant to teach important skills to all the teams involved, considering the number of ‘traditional workflows being redesigned’ to accommodate 3D printing today. The goal of all involved is to stay ahead and highly motivated to try new techniques while forging ahead with excellence.

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.

[Images: Vaal University of Technology]

 

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