Discover the revolution of 3D printed prosthetics | Sculpteo Blog

Discover the revolution of 3D printed prosthetics

Posted By Kat Plewa on Apr 5, 2019 | 0 comments

Additive Manufacturing is making an incredible difference in the medical industry. From 3D printed hearts to knee replacements and 3D scanners, 3D technologies can change or even save millions of lives. Another interesting aspect of using 3D printing in this field is prosthetics. You might have heard about 3D printed prosthetic arms, but that’s not all there is to it. How else can we benefit from Additive Manufacturing when it comes to prosthetics design?


Overview of 3D printing in the medical sector

The medical sector benefits from the wide range of advantages offered by Additive Manufacturing. Thanks to the mass-customization opportunities and the flexibility of the manufacturing and design processes, 3D printing becomes a real alternative for this sector.

This manufacturing technology could be used to replace human organ transplants, speed up surgical procedures, but also produce cheaper versions of required surgical tools. Using technology to rethink and improve the way we produce medical devices leads to great opportunities. 

This technology can also improve the lives of those reliant on prosthetic limbs. That is a fact, we can notice a growing interest in adapted orthopedic insoles, orthosis, and prosthetics manufactured using additive manufacturing. 


Why use 3D printing for prosthetics?

Manufacturing prosthetic is expensive

Thanks to the constant evolution of 3D printing technologies, the medical industry is facing new challenges. In its own way, 3D printing is revolutionizing the field of rehabilitative medicine and tackling a particular issue: prosthetics. According to NGO LIMBS, only 5% of the nearly 40 million amputees in the developing world have access to prosthetic devices or assistance. Many companies such as Unyq are using the advantages of generative design and additive manufacturing to create a brand new approach to prosthetics both in terms of form and functionality. Indeed, some companies are focusing on bringing these advantages to the developing world, to the amputees in environments that lack the medical infrastructure or resources. The goal here is to support the labor-intensive and expensive prospect of traditional prosthetic manufacturing.

Manufacturing adapted and quality devices for amputees is actually a struggle all over the world, as these prosthetics are expensive and most of the time, poorly adapted to the patient’s particularities. New technologies as this one can also be a major advantage for prosthetists, help in them in the development of customizable prostheses. From the creation of 3D printed prosthetic hands to functional wrists, solutions can be offered with additive manufacturing.


Advantages of 3D printing prosthetics

  • Innovation

Thanks to 3D printers, rapid prototyping has never been so easy. Iterate your ideas and projects faster thanks to this technology. Going further than traditional prosthetics manufacturing will enable great future developments. 

  • Customization

The customization part is the most important argument here. Getting adapted devices and prosthetics will benefit the patients and improve their quality of life during a limb loss. Customizable functional prostheses creation is now possible thanks to 3D printers.

  • Cost

Once again, developing such a complex project as prosthetics is expensive with traditional manufacturing techniques. Especially if you want to adapt it to the morphology of the patient, additive manufacturing appears to be the most efficient technique to get low-cost prosthetics. 


They used 3D printing to develop prosthetics

Several 3D printed prosthetics projects have already been developed all around the world. See how 3D printing materials and technologies are helping to create functional artificial limbs. Here are a few examples of 3D printed prosthetics:

Hand prosthetics


This might not come as a surprise to you, but it is a topic worth mentioning. According to research done by Amputee Coalition, on average there is an amputation done every 30 seconds, and life after such a procedure is hard. But there are people out there using the latest technology innovations to help others.


E-nable is a global network of passionate volunteers who help amputees. Thanks to 3D printing, amputees can have a new E-nable device in a short amount of time. The prosthetic hand is fully customized, matching the limb of the user, costs only a fraction of normal prosthetic costs, and dramatically improves the life of the amputee.


Bringing all those aspects together in one product was impossible before Additive Manufacturing. Prosthetics are either cheap, but not functional and not personalized, or personalized and very expensive and they always take a lot of time to produce. 3D printing is truly changing the world of medicine and engineering.


Leg prosthetics

Looking absolutely stunning and even impossible Exo by William Root breaks the boundaries of logic. He brings a new level of the esthetics of prostheses. His prosthetic leg is not only beautiful but also fully functional.

First of all the designer improved the time-consuming process of manufacturing a prosthesis. Normally, the amputee had to have a mold done of his limb, then a cast was made, vacuum form, check for fit, assembly, and then adjustments are done. Of course, the tedious process has to be repeated again until the fit is just right.


When it comes to 3D printing, you scan the limb, adjust the 3D model, and then print the design. Simple, fast, and effective. And in addition to that, beautiful. The prosthesis can be fully customized for the user, comfortable, and expressing their character.

Millie: the first-ever dog with a 3D printed prosthetic leg in Australia


People are not the only ones whose lives changed thanks to Additive Manufacturing. We already talked about a few animals such as a penguin and a duck with a prosthesis, now it’s time for Millie, the greyhound from Australia.


She’s a rescue dog, which was kicked out because of a bad paw. Unfortunately, professional prosthetics cost 10 000$ and they are not as personalized. The owners turned to Autodesk, a leader in 3D modeling and CAD software. With Fusion 360 they designed a new, ideally-fitting prosthesis and then 3D printed it.


Most of all, 3D printed prosthesis matches exactly the needs of Mille and her limb. It doesn’t cause her any discomfort and allows her to play and be a happy pup. It was also a quick process, and on top of everything was much cheaper.


What is the future of 3D printed prosthetics?

It is definitely bright! As you’ve seen in this article, the presented examples show how beneficial Additive Manufacturing is to the medical industry. 3D printing prosthetics are cheaper by thousands of dollars. They are also much more comfortable, fitting exactly the limb, not causing pain to the user, and they are highly customized. This level of personalization has never been achievable before.


Examples like E-noble show that you can 3D print too. With online 3D printing services, it is as easy as uploading your file and you will get an instant quote! And in case of any questions, we’re here for you. Contact us and we will share with your our 3D printing expertise.


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