Printable prosthetics for children
A 3D printed prosthetic arm was prototyped for a child, to allow for cheap reprints with resized components to accomodate the child's growth. A previous prototype was limited as it necessitated a functional wrist and could only produce a closed fist, this further development offered shoulder operation and multigrip. Feedback was positive, with some limitations.
Upper extremity prostheses are expensive, this can be a large barrier for families with amputated children, as they grow fast and new components are needed regularly. Further, due to the impact of weight on the immature skeleton, more complex devices are rarely prescribed. 3D printing may provide an inexpensive alternative with greater functionality.
A device is created with shoulder controls and external power which allows the user to open and close the entire hand or the thumb only, for a tenth of the price of most other devices.
The prototype was tested on a 13 year old who noted the device was lighter than her other prosthetic, and found the thumb movement an advantage. The family also noted that the finacial side was a huge benefit.
However, the printed device's mechanical parts have low durability, the motor is noisey and the available grip strength low. Additionally the battery life for the device is short, providing room for development.
What do you think: do young children need prosthetic devices or should they learn to compensate with the residual stump only?
> From: Gretsch et al., Prosthet Orthot Int 10 (2015) (Epub ahead of print). All rights reserved to the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics. Click here for the Pubmed summary.
Video of a 3D printed hand for a boy: