The recent rise in popularity of 3D printers design, manufacturing and distribution is helping to create a more affordable solution for the millions of amputees around the world. In the US alone, over 200.000 amputations are performed each year and the total number of amputees exceeds 2 million people.
The traditional method for getting a prosthetic limb can take from weeks to months as they are very personal items that must be tailor-mate to fit the needs of the wearer. Needing a prosthetic limb involves a recurring expense, as the average life span of one is of approximately five years. This is an even larger economic burden for families with children that have suffered limb-loss, as children are constantly growing and require more frequent replacements than an adult would. However, with 3D printing becoming more affordable, with some available for less than $200, the possibility of having a 3D printer and being able to design and print a prosthetic limb at home is soon becoming a viable reality.
Open-source initiatives are emerging to help the community of amputees worldwide, for example, the Enable Community Foundation allows anyone with a 3D printer to customize and create a prosthetic hand for as little as $50.
The newest technological developments are introducing new abilities, such as propulsion system, which are integrated sensors and algorithms that work together to create a more natural joint movement. Additionally, 3D printers are becoming increasingly more compatible with new materials such as lightweight titanium, which increases durability and strength.
With these new advancements, the reality of 3D printed, affordable and durable prosthetic limbs is closer than ever, making it very exciting and inspiring to know that the lives of many around the world can and will be easily improved.