Next Up for 3D Printing: Prosthetics


Prosthetic limbs are a manufacturing challenge. Some parts must be custom-fitted, and even then they may cause discomfort for the wearer.  They have to be able to fit closely enough to avoid blisters or chafing, and yet adapt to the natural changes in the size of body parts over the course of a day or with temperature changes. They can’t accommodate growth, though, so children must have them replaced often as they develop.

The materials used are complex and require a delicate balance of rigidity and flexibility. Both design and production end up being more of an art than a science, so there is little systemization in production.

They’re usually very expensive, too — sometimes too expensive for individuals to pay for. Part of this is because of the highly customized nature of the item. There simply is no organized supply chain that can make the process more effective and therefore less expensive.

This is a case in which 3D manufacturing comes into its own. Since there is typically no economy of scale with 3D manufacturing — the 1000th piece costs just as much as the first — 3D printing is usually most suited to prototyping. But the 1000th item is no more costly than the first one, either. Making a custom item doesn’t cost any more than making a mass-produced item.

3D printing turns out to be good at making prosthetics, in fact. They can be less expensive than traditional prosthetics and more easily customized. This means that children can have well-fitting prosthetics and replace them as needed.

There is still a place for traditional manufacturing; in fact, traditional manufacturing works better for most things than 3D printing. Ideally, new technologies will be used where they are best, and the legacy technologies will be kept in place where they are the better choice.

We specialize in legacy Indramat technology. We can help with everything from phone support to factory repair and emergency replacements. Give us a call — or put our number in your phone for the next time you need help.


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