While working 3D printed hands and mechanical limb replacements have been getting a lot of attention lately, in reality they aren’t really for everyone or for every situation. Motorized prostheses are extremely expensive, require regular maintenance, and are considered by some people who do not have upper body limbs to be more trouble than they are worth. Many people who are missing arms or hands actually have multiple prosthetic devices for different situations, or even eschew them entirely.
Additionally people often assume, if someone is missing a limb or has any sort of noticeable disability, that something happened to them when in actuality it often it is something that has been part of them since birth. The automatic assumption that missing a limb makes someone broken and needs to be fixed is frankly a rather onerous one and it is high time that the behavior be addressed. The fact is, most disabled people don’t have the luxury of “fixing” their disability and rightly resent the implication that they are required to do so. Subtle forms of ableism like excessive displays of pity of being inspired by someone with a disability because they “manage” having a disability can often be rather demoralizing and actually have the opposite intended effect. Whereas someone choosing how to present and acknowledge their disability is actually an important personal statement that shouldn’t be taken from them.
So while 3D printing is giving an entire generation of people access to useful and affordable prosthetic and assistive devices, it has also given them the ability to define the nature of their device and customize it to their personal needs. And because 3D printing is so inexpensive in comparison to traditionally manufactured prosthetics, it also offers the opportunity to consider personal aesthetics. It is that new freedom that has inspired a Colombian 3D printing business to create a series of 3D printable prosthetic devices designed to be seen and noticed.
“We present a series of 3D printable passive prosthesis designed for upper limb amputees. We aim to make uncommon prosthesis that are not meant to be hidden but to be shown without shame,” explained designer and Cocreat3D CEO Esteban Velásquez Rendón.
Cocreat3D is still in the prototyping phase of their design process and currently has only printed scaled down versions of the prosthetic devices, but they should be available soon. The prosthetic devices can be custom fit to the wearer’s arm using 3D scanning and 3D modelling technology, and of course be printed in any color or material desired. And given the wide variety of materials that are available, including metallics, neon, and wood, many of these designs could be quite striking.
While Rendón’s devices will not be the first passive or decorative prosthetic limbs to be 3D printed, they are the first that seem to be aiming to create a line of products that can be adapted to any user, not designed for a specific person. And as the cost of 3D printers and materials continues to drop, small-scale, personalized manufacturing is made more accessible to almost anyone.
3D printing technology is leading to the democratization of design and manufacturing and having a very real impact on multiple industries and communities. And now a community that is often marginalized and forced to have their mobility, experiences, and lifestyles defined for them is being given the tools to take that power back for themselves, even in such small, seemingly insignificant (to those without disabilities) ways. Tell us what you think about fashionable prostheses on our Cocreat3D’s Stylish Prosthetic Arm Prototypes forum thread at 3DPB.com.