Oct 2, 2017 | By Tess

A mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado Boulder is putting his knowledge to use through the development of functional and low-cost prosthetics made with the help of 3D printing technology.

What started off as an eighth-grade science project for Peter “Max” Armstrong, the student in question, has grown into a highly promising initiative called Go Prosthetics. After years of research, prototypes, and tinkering, Armstrong believes he has developed a low-cost and customizable prosthetic that could be deployed in parts of the world where medical aids and prosthetics are hard to come by.

On a personal level, Armstrong was inspired to pursue the project by a family friend who suffered a double amputation. After learning how much lower limb prosthetics can cost (upwards of $3,000), the student decided to see if he could do something to make a difference.

Of course, at the time Armstrong was not using 3D printing to make prosthetics, but the interest in developing accessible artificial limbs certainly grew from that point. Impressively, by the time he was in high school, Armstrong had conceived of the prosthetic design he has now printed, tested, and patented.

Armstrong’s Go Prosthetics technology basically consists of a “general shaped” 3D printed prosthetic socket (which come in a variety of sizes), which can be customized to the wearer by injecting expandable foam into the socket until it is a perfect fit.

According to the Go Prosthetics website, a socket fitting only takes about 30 minutes to complete and the prosthetics themselves only cost about $300 to produce—a price that Armstrong says will drop once production increases.

To test his 3D printed prosthetic limb system, Armstrong has worked closely with Brian Sherman, who had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2013. Sherman heard about the CU Boulder student’s work via an amputee support group in Oregon, and quickly got in contact.

Brian Sherman wearing the Go Prosthetics 3D printed limb

"I think it's phenomenal he's had such dedication," Sherman told CU News. "He's had a great idea, and he's run with it.”

Working together, Sherman has given Armstrong vital feedback on his prosthetic design, telling him if and when the socket was uncomfortable and whether it was easy to move with. "The first one he did—it hurt," he explained. "I told him if it hurts, people aren't going to use it. The second one he did is much better. I walked around the room. I had control. I had balance.”

(Images: Go Prosthetics)

Since then, Armstrong says he has tested his design with three below-the-knee amputees and received positive reviews of his 3D printed prosthetic. Currently, the engineering student is trying to find an NGO or nonprofit organization to collaborate with to deploy his 3D printed prosthetics.

Ultimately, the goal of Go Prosthetics is to offer amputees in developing regions of the world better access to prosthetics, effectively giving them their mobility back. Armstrong will also keep working on his design to make it suitable for upper-limp amputees as well.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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