Medical & Dental

3D printing prosthetics pioneer speaks at Wired Next Gen conference

3D printing prosthetic enterprise Open Bionics showcased, at Wired’s Next Generation event in London over the weekend, their ability to 3D print affordable prosthetic limbs. The talk was given by COO and co-founder Samantha Payne at the event run by Wired specifically for 12-18 year olds. Open Bionics announced that they will make the 3D printing files available to all and also wish to share this code, allowing the millions of people who would benefit from arm prosthetics to be able to print their own arms.

An Open Bionics superhero arm. Image via Open Bionics
An Open Bionics superhero arm. Image via Open Bionics

The benefits of 3D printed arms 

There is certainly a need for this technology particularly since, according to Open Bionics, there are two million upper arm amputees in the word. The 3D printed arm from Open Bionics is both more affordable and more time-effective and Open Bionics explain their 3D printed arm is 30 times cheaper than other products on the market and can take less than two days to create.

This news means not only will arm amputees be able to 3D print their own functioning arms, but they will also be able to customize and personalize them. The aspect of customization means further empowerment to their users, allowing an amputee to express their arm as part of their identity. This has particular impact on young arm amputees, who as Payne showcased at the event, will be able to replicate their favorite superheroes. Child arm amputees will now be able to reach a level-playing field with their peers in performing similar actions with their hands and also they will be the envy of others with their impressive futuristic arms. This is important for Payne who believes the replacement arms should be an expression of the wearer.

Open Bionics are empowering child amputees 

The Bristol based company represented the empowerment this can give amputees and particularly child amputees, with the aid of a young girl named Tilly. Tilly was just 15 months old when she contracted meningitis septicemia and has never had great success with replacement limbs: comparing her first to a puppet hand. Now equipped with her Open Bionics prosthetic limb she can fully move her hand and perform complex movements. The arms work using electromyography sensors to track the electrical activity of the arm muscles which then tell the Open Bionics arm how to move the hand. Payne’s desire is “to change children who have limb differences into bionic superheroes.

Open Bionics have partnered with Marvel. Image via Open Bionics
Open Bionics have been inspired by Marvel and Disney characters. Image via Open Bionics

Further advancements in 3D printing 

Medical developments using 3D printing are increasingly common, as we reported nine year old Calramon 3D printed an arm for a local teacher. Now with this news from Open Bionics the technology should be even more readily available, also an aim of enabling the future. The code to print your own prosthetic arm is available here. As we recently reported 3D printing for other medical uses, such as heart surgery is also advancing.

Featured image via Wired