3D printing promises personalized prosthetic devices in remote areas

According to research at Loughborough University, led by Dr. Simin Li, the novel digital workflow significantly increases accessibility and production speed

According to Loughborough University, lower limb prosthetic sockets could soon be printed in remote locations and even in users’ homes, thanks to 3D printing. Dr. Simin Li, a Senior Lecturer in Mechanics of Biomaterials, and a team of researchers in the School of Mechanical, Electrical, and Manufacturing Engineering have pioneered a fully digital design-to-manufacturing process that has the potential to revolutionize lower limb socket production by allowing printing outside of hospital settings.

Traditionally, the creation of a lower limb socket has been a time-consuming process, taking around three-to-six weeks. This method involves taking a cast of the limb, which serves as a mold for crafting a socket. The process necessitates visits to hospitals, relies heavily on labor-intensive skills and expertise, and often involves a trial-and-error approach. According to Dr Li, the resulting sockets are more akin to ‘works of art than medical devices’ and can lead to skin and stability issues if they do not fit perfectly. This process also has to be repeated frequently as sockets wear down quickly with use – being replaced every 3-6 months for adults and even more regularly for children.

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