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
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Two-year-old Sol with his fully-functioning
Researching infant development with prosthetics,
When Ben's son, Sol, was born in
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
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,
"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
"This case is indicative of 3D printing's ability to improve lives by
overcoming the traditional barriers of low-volume manufacturing," says
**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
For more than 25 years,
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