March 1, 2017

Ambionics Achieves Breakthrough Development of Unique Child Prosthetic With Stratasys 3D Printing

Self-taught father develops customized 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic for two-year old amputee son, avoiding wait for state-developed version

Design and production of 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic enables cost savings of up to 76%, as well as time savings in design and production of 90% compared to traditional methods

MINNEAPOLIS & REHOVOT, Israel--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Stratasys Ltd. (Nasdaq:SSYS), the 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company, today announced that its multi-material, multi-color PolyJet 3D printing technology has enabled Ben Ryan, founder of Ambionics, to create a fully-functioning 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic for his two year old son, Sol.

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Two-year-old Sol with his fully-functioning Stratasys 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic arm, which ena ...

Two-year-old Sol with his fully-functioning Stratasys 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic arm, which enables him to move his thumb on his own (Photo: Business Wire)

Researching infant development with prosthetics, Ben Ryan has developed a unique prosthetic for infants to wear, enabling a more natural acceptance of prosthetic arms for young children. An unparalleled innovation within this sphere of the medical field, the customized design and production of the 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic has delivered cost savings of up to 76%, as well as time savings in design and production of 90%, compared to traditional methods of manufacture. This crucially permits prosthetics to be used at an earlier developmental stage.

When Ben's son, Sol, was born in March 2015, complications resulted in the amputation of his lower left arm. Although able to keep approximately one inch of his lower arm, Sol would have to wait three years for a myoelectric prosthetic from the NHS*, and one year before a cosmetic, non-functional prosthesis would be fitted. Ben saw his son losing responsiveness and acceptance of his left arm, and decided to act.

Having undertaken extensive research into infant development, Ben saw that higher rejection rates occur when children are fit after the age of two years** and that early fitting of functional devices correlates with continued prosthetic use throughout childhood. Another study*** also found that children fitted before two years of age tend to accept their powered prosthesis more than those fitted after two years. With this in mind, Ben first designed a foam arm for his son, and later a hydraulic prosthetic, enabling Sol to move his thumb on his own.

Ben designed and created his 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic arm on the Stratasys Connex 3D Printer. First practicing with prototypes of his design, Ben 3D printed flexible actuators and a power-splitting unit (double acting helical bellow or DAHB) for the prosthetic. According to Ben, the DAHB unit enables the wearer to open and close the thumb in manual mode or with assistive power (using compressed air or a hydraulic pump and reservoir), but the grip continues to operate manually in the event of power interruption.

"The success of my patented DAHB mechanism draws on the advanced capabilities of the Stratasys Connex Printer - the ability to combine rigid and soft materials in a single print was vital to the success of the design," explains Ben. "We were fortunate enough to have access to this technology, which enabled us to 3D print a prototype arm so quickly and cost-effectively. In founding Ambionics, it's now my goal to ensure that other limb deficient children like my son are not faced with the current constraints and delays of traditional prosthetic manufacture."

To develop the design for the prosthetic, Ben relied on the use of Autodesk Fusion 360.

"This is a very innovative and ambitious project and it's been inspiring to work with Ben on it," says Paul Sohi, a product design expert at Autodesk. "It is amazing that despite Ben having no real background in product design, he's effectively taught himself enough to create something that will not only help his own son Sol, but in Ambionics, potentially others facing the same challenges too."

As well as its lightweight 3D printed design that weighs less than traditional myoelectric alternatives, the hydraulic prosthetic is body-powered and enables infants to grow accustomed to their "arm" earlier than traditional fittings. The ability to operate without the need for any electronic devices or batteries is unique to the Ambionics design and mitigates the risk of injury.

Scan of the arm to wearable prosthetic in just five days

While the NHS takes 11 weeks to convert the plaster cast of the arm into a wearable prosthetic, Ben Ryan was able to produce the prosthetic in only five days. With the flexibility to keep the scan on file, the digital copy allows replacement prosthetics to be easily produced through 3D printing.

"Essentially the entire prosthetic is 3D printed," Ben adds. "Only Stratasys' strong rubber-like and dissolvable support 3D printing materials make production and use of the DAHB units possible. The internal cavities are complex and it would be impossible to remove the support material using mechanical means. The materials must also be strong yet flexible as they are used to transmit fluid pressure to operate the grip."

Having patented its DAHB technology inside the prosthetic, Ambionics is aiming to offer the service to healthcare providers worldwide. Continuing its research and testing into infant development with prosthetics, the company is starting a Crowdfunding campaign on March 1st to enable medical device usability trials, which are required before seeking authorization to launch the product into the market.

"This case is indicative of 3D printing's ability to improve lives by overcoming the traditional barriers of low-volume manufacturing," says Scott Rader, General Manager, Healthcare Solutions, Stratasys. "We continue to support and enable innovators like Ben to bring customization to mainstream prosthetics manufacture," he concludes.

*UK National Health Service

**J Prosthet Orthot. 2005;17:119-124

***Toda M, Chin T, Shibata Y, Mizobe F (2015) Use of Powered Prosthesis for Children with Upper Limb Deficiency at Hyogo Rehabilitation Center. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0131746. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131746

For more than 25 years, Stratasys Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) has been a defining force and dominant player in 3D printing and additive manufacturing - shaping the way things are made. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rehovot, Israel, the company empowers customers across a broad range of vertical markets by enabling new paradigms for design and manufacturing. The company's solutions provide customers with unmatched design freedom and manufacturing flexibility - reducing time-to-market and lowering development costs, while improving designs and communications. Stratasys subsidiaries include MakerBot and Solidscape, and the Stratasys ecosystem includes 3D printers for prototyping and production; a wide range of 3D printing materials; parts on-demand via Stratasys Direct Manufacturing; strategic consulting and professional services; and the Thingiverse and GrabCAD communities with over 2 million 3D printable files for free designs. With more than 2,700 employees and 1200 granted or pending additive manufacturing patents, Stratasys has received more than 30 technology and leadership awards. Visit us online at: www.stratasys.com or http://blog.stratasys.com/, and follow us on LinkedIn.

Stratasys, Stratasys signet logo, Connex and PolyJet are trademarks or registered trademarks of Stratasys Ltd. and/or its subsidiaries or affiliates. Autodesk and Fusion 360 are trademarks of Autodesk Inc. and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates.

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