Sep 17, 2015 | By Alec

3D printing has already proved itself time and again as an excellent and affordable technology for manufacturing basic prosthetics, but even in that field there are few limitations. For one, typical materials as ABS and PLA aren’t exactly suitable for manufacturing leg prosthetics, while makers have struggled to add more than a simple gripping function to most prosthetics. That’s just a few of the reasons why are so impressed by the creation of the limbU, a prosthetic smart leg developed by student Troy Baverstock that is absolutely packed with sensors for personal activities and for medical rehabilitation.

This fantastic prosthetic is conjuring up quite a storm in the 3D printing world and even in the artistic one, having appeared on a few 3D printing conferences and in a couple of design galleries, so we are very happy to talk to Troy Baverstock ourselves. Troy is currently studying at Griffith University in Australia, where he developed this interesting prosthetic. Having previously studied Psychology at the University of Queensland (where he got a B. Sc.) he since moved over to design with a focus on health science and engineering, as he is absolutely fascinated by the combination of human nature and futuristic technologies.

And his limbU definitely seems to be a fantastic combination of the two. While Prosthetics can quickly be unappealing visually, this 3D printed creation truly looks beautiful. ‘With few exceptions, prosthetic limbs have remained utilitarian in appearance and single minded in purpose. Despite promising advances in medical technology, prostheses that can match their biological counterparts are currently confined to the realms of science fiction. This limitation however does not restrict us from exploring new forms and functions for which the prosthetic limb is uniquely situated,’ he says. That’s why this 3D printed limbU also comes with interchangeable aesthetic covers and lighting effects to enable the wearer to express his identity or complete a look.

And while we’ve seen some interesting bionic prosthetics in the past, these legs do a whole lot more than walking. Embedded within are a host of sensors to give it a responsible medical dimension – for tracking rehabilitation progress and more – and a fun one. With an eye on the patient, the limbU contains motion sensors to aid physicians to track limb orientation, movement and any fitting issues – all of which optimizes recovery programs.

But the rest of the sensors are fantastic too. ‘Smart electronics in limbU connect with a mobile phone via Bluetooth to display the intensity, speed, and number of steps in a day. limbU also monitors altitude, direction, and GPS coordinates, along with temperature and humidity to provide a detailed image of daily activity,’ Troy tells us, adding that the LimbU even doubles as a phone charger, What more could you want?

All of these fantastic options were added because Troy saw a challenge in the absence of the limb. For why replace a missing leg with an inadequate alternative? Why not, while you’re at it, enable the leg to do more than support your weight? ‘The absence of a limb can challenge our sense of identity and the current replacements offered are inadequate in all but rudimentary operation. limbU seeks to redefine a wearer’s relationship with their limb by allowing the opportunity to co-create its form and function to suit their personal lives. Through that form and function limbU endeavours to alter the perception of prosthetic limbs in the greater community, fostering an open dialogue of interest, familiarity and acceptance,’ he says.

And 3D printing is obviously the best technology to enable that. Not only does it make both production and customization efficient, it is also by far more affordable than the alternative. He estimates it costs about $200 in materials to manufacture the limbU, with production times being somewhere around the 60 hours with the university’s 3D printers. ‘From industrial printers through to smaller home based printers the construction of limbU scales well, further reducing expense and increasing accessibility. limbU’s potential uses can expand and develop through its smart device, app based interfaces, promoting new and novel ways to interact with the surrounding world,’ the designer says. Fortunately, we will doubtlessly hear more from Troy in the near future, as he recently purchased his own 3D printer and is working to complete his degree.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Jackson Dunn wrote at 9/24/2015 3:45:19 PM:

I am amazed. This proves that public technology can do just as much as medical technology and private technology.

Emma Guba wrote at 9/22/2015 1:26:37 AM:

Its so cool that they can make a prosthetic leg that can do so many things like a medical tool. It can also track so many things.

andrew mckenzie wrote at 9/21/2015 4:15:44 PM:

this is truly amazing. people with prosthetics usually don't like the appearance this helps solve this problems while providing good movement

Nate coulter period 3 wrote at 9/21/2015 4:15:15 PM:

It is cool that we can print prosthetic legs in 3d printers. It is a lot cheaper than regular costs and easier to make

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