Mar 1, 2017 | By Tess
A Welsh father has made a custom 3D printed prosthetic arm for his infant son whose left arm was amputated just after birth. The father, one Ben Ryan from Anglesey, is the founder of Ambionics, a startup that is specifically dedicated to developing prosthetics for very young children.
Ryan’s son Sol was born in March 2015 with a blood clot in his lower left arm which led to its amputation. When Ryan was told by the NHS that his son could not be fitted with a functional myoelectric prosthetic for at least another three years, and would have to wait at least a year for a non-functional basic cosmetic prosthetic, he set to work making a prosthetic that his young son could wear.
According to research surrounding infant development, the earlier a child can become accustomed to a prosthetic the easier their development and mobility will be. When Ryan noticed that Sol was depending less and less on his left arm, he realized that getting him used to a prosthetic sooner could help him to be more comfortable using both his arms. His first solution was a foam prosthetic, which he ultimately replaced with a 3D printed hydraulic prosthetic arm, which gave Sol thumb mobility.
To design the prosthetic, Ryan 3D scanned his son’s arm using an affordable Microsoft Xbox Kinect scanner, which he simply plugged into his laptop. From there, he relied on Autodesk Fusion 360 software to design the device. The whole process, from design to prosthetic, took only about 5 days to complete.
The hydraulic prosthetic was 3D printed using Stratasys’ Connex 3D printer. Understandably, the small prosthesis took lots of design work and many prototypes to be made. The final product includes 3D printed flexible actuators and a power-splitting unit (a double acting helical bellow or DAHB) which lets the user, in this case Sol, open and close the prosthetic’s thumb using compressed air or a hydraulic pump. According to Ryan, the user can also operate the thumb and the hand’s grip manually.
“The success of my patented DAHB mechanism draws on the advanced capabilities of the Stratasys Connex Printer—the ability to combine rigid and soft materials in a single print was vital to the success of the design," said Ryan. "We were fortunate enough to have access to this technology, which enabled us to 3D print a prototype arm so quickly and cost-effectively. In founding Ambionics, it's now my goal to ensure that other limb deficient children like my son are not faced with the current constraints and delays of traditional prosthetic manufacture."
So far, Ambionics has already launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to get its infant prosthetics off the ground. Hoping to raise £150,000, Ryan says he will use the funding to continue his research and development for the 3D printed prosthetics, pay for CE and FDA certifications, as well as patent and intellectual property costs.
The 3D printed prosthetics that Ryan is developing are ideal for small children for a number of reasons. Not only are they are lightweight (even lighter than traditional myoelectric alternatives), but they are not made up of any small parts, such as screws, which could pose choking hazards, and they are body-powered which helps the young children to adapt to using a prosthetic.
Paul Sohi, a product design expert at Autodesk, commented: “This is a very innovative and ambitious project and it's been inspiring to work with Ben on it. It is amazing that despite Ben having no real background in product design, he's effectively taught himself enough to create something that will not only help his own son Sol, but in Ambionics, potentially others facing the same challenges too."
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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andrew wrote at 3/2/2017 3:33:25 AM: