3D printing technology has seen a steady increase in the last few years. This happened because of its many applications which include art, jewellery, construction, and clothing industries. Due to the many applications of 3D printing, experts keep on trying to break new ground on where it can be applied next.
Another promising application of 3D printing is in prosthetics, which covers human limb replacements or extensions. The cost of conventional prosthetics (such as legs) is very expensive because they must be customised to fit a person perfectly. On top of that, children can outgrow their prosthetics which will cl for adjustments over time. Thankfully, 3D printing provides a cheaper and more accessible alternative for prosthetics development.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about the application of 3D printing in medical prosthetics. Read on below to learn more.
The Accessibility of 3D Printing
3D printed models are designed freely with the help of CAD software. Because of this, creating 3D printed prosthetics are not restricted by geometric constraints of conventional material properties and manufacturing methods.
As long as you have a 3D printer and CAD software, you can design 3D printed prosthetics. The average cost would be around $100, but it can be higher if you want a high-quality and long-lasting product.
While 3D printed prosthetics are slowly beginning to be a possibility, experts still know very little about its application and sustainability. This is why further research is still being conducted for its usage.
The Potential of 3D Printed Prosthetics
Like most things, getting the perfect 3D printed prosthetics is a trial and error process. The good news is that many medical technology companies are looking into its development.
In 2020, a company specialising in 3D-printed medical wearables based in San Francisco announced the launch of the UNYQ Socket, which is a socket for prosthetic legs. It’s the latest addition to their prosthetics wear line, and they intend to have a complete product by the end of this year.
For additional context, the prosthetic leg socket is the section of a prosthesis that’s attached to the residual limb. With 3D printing, the socket can be lightweight since it replaces the metal components commonly found in most prosthetics.
The only concern about 3D printed prosthetics is their sustainability, since non-metal products tend to deteriorate quickly. It’s a valid concern, but reports by many medical technology companies have all stated that their materials are stable and tear-resistant. It’s their guarantee that their products will last for a few years before the need to replace them occurs.
The Importance of Pediatric prosthetics
Unlike tests with adults, pediatric prosthetics for children are seen as a greater success for 3D printing technology. Researchers from the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom, have developed a prototype for a 3D printed prosthetic arm that’s also sensor-operated, designed for children under two years of age. The Soft-Grasp Infant Myoelectric Prosthetic Arm (SIMPA) is made with 3D scanning, additive manufacturing, and an armband-based Surface Electromyography (sEMG) system.
The myoelectric aspect of the prosthetic means that electrical signals in the muscles control it. Although these sensors are effective among children, they’re used most of the time because children’ muscles are still developing as they grow up.
There’s no doubt that 3D printing has promising applications in the realm of medical technology. However, studies still need to be continued so that the best possible products can be produced without sacrificing efficiency and sustainability. In time, we’ll see more amputees regaining their quality of life because of the help that 3D printed prosthetics can offer.
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