May 5, 2016 | By Benedict

Autodesk has teamed up with Denise Schindler, a German paralympic cyclist, to design her a 3D printed prosthetic leg. Schindler will put the 3D printed device to use at the 2016 Paralympic Games, which take place in September in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Image: Reuters

Following the results of the crucial Indiana primary this week, President Barack Obama might currently be more concerned with the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency than with, say, 3D printing. But while that may be the case, the incumbent president must surely have additive manufacturing at the back of his mind after a number of encounters with the 3D printing community during last week’s Hannover Messe technology fair in Germany. The president, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, met with MakerGear CEO Rick Pollack to discuss the state of 3D printing, but it was another encounter that might have particularly inspired the sport-loving leader of the free world.

Last Monday, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel met German para-cycling champion Denise Schindler and Autodesk’s Roland Zelles during the huge industrial technology fair to discuss an exciting collaboration between the athlete and the 3D design experts. American software corporation Autodesk, which sacked ten percent of its workforce earlier this year, has designed and 3D printed a prosthetic leg for Schindler to wear at this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio. Prior to the collaboration with Autodesk, Schindler had her prosthetic leg made using a plaster casting process—effective, but slow to produce and relatively expensive.

In order to provide Schindler with an even better prosthesis, Autodesk took a 3D scan of the athlete’s residual limb, which was then digitally rendered. Experts then digitally modeled a prosthetic leg using Autodesk cloud design tool Fusion 360, before engaging in a massive collaboration with project stakeholders across the world, going through 52 versions before settling on the final product. The team used Autodesk Within to reduce the weight of the prosthesis, before 3D printing it on a Stratasys Fortus MC 450 3D printer at Autodesk’s Pier 9 manufacturing facility in San Francisco. The software company claims that this entire process could be completed in around five days, costing a quarter of the price of a traditionally made alternative.

“My dream is to make better fitting performance prostheses accessible to all, so I am really excited about the results of this project,” said Schindler, who lost her leg in an accident at the age of two. “Ultimately, the number one most important thing about any prosthesis, and especially a sports prosthesis due to the amount of time spent training and competing in it, is comfort. Being able to develop a well-fitting prosthesis which doesn’t compromise on performance, in less time and for less money than traditional means, is a real break-through.”

Image credit: Autodesk

Both Schindler and Autodesk’s Zelles had the opportunity to speak to President Obama and Chancellor Merkel about the project, with Zelles expressing his satisfaction with the encounter: “It was hugely exciting to see the interest in this project from President Obama and Chancellor Merkel, the leaders of two of the world’s most advanced manufacturing economies,” he said. “This collaboration has shown how new technologies, tools and techniques like additive manufacturing, generative design, and the cloud are changing the future of making things.”

After winning a silver medal at the London Paralympics in 2012, Schindler hopes to top that achievement with victory in Rio this year. Her 3D printed prosthesis, which weighs 812 grams (1.79 lb), is still undergoing tests, but the athlete has reportedly shaved 2 seconds off her 3km ride since using the device. The 3D printed prosthetic is also 25 percent less expensive than conventional alternatives. Over the coming weeks, Schindler will be testing the prosthetic on the cycling track. Though her focus is on saving time, she also sees the project as an investment into prosthesis technology on behalf of all the people who need them. As the prosthetic was based on a scan, the digital files can be adjusted over and over again, while conventional prosthetics need to be altered by hand. What’s more, the process is far less stressful for the patient, as the prosthetic can be finished in a just a week or so. Handmade alternatives, meanwhile, can take up to ten weeks to make and require multiple visits to the prosthetic builder.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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