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3d printed prosthetics are turning into a reality now for those who've lost limbs in the throes of war or become innocent victims of international conflict. All over the world, people are starting to create prosthetic limbs on a 3D printer, or using the 3D printers themselves in far-off locations. The greater news behind this is that creating those prosthetic limbs doesn't cost nearly as much as those made in hi-tech companies today. It's a real godsend for many people who can't afford to pay for a prosthetic limb that costs thousands of dollars.
An International Example
One of the most uplifting stories in creating 3D-printed prosthetic limbs happened recently in Sudan. Through a non-profit organization started by Mick Ebeling called Not Impossible, Ebeling heard the story of a boy who lost his hand during a bomb raid in Sudan. With all the violence there in recent years, many innocent bystanders have lost limbs while being caught in the middle of numerous skirmishes.
When Ebeling heard about the above story, he hooked up with Intel and Precipart with 3D printers in tow and headed to Sudan. There, they printed a prosthetic hand for the Sudanese boy that now enables him to eat and do other tasks on his own. After Ebeling and crew left, they made sure some of the 3D printers were left there with experts to train the Sudanese people on how to use them. Now a makeshift prosthetic lab is in operation that regularly prints out prosthetic limbs for those who've been injured from the ravages of war.
Plenty of similar stories are happening here in the United States where prosthetic limbs are being designed cheaply for those with natural disabilities. The media covered a story where a father managed to print a prosthetic hand off a 3D printer for his 12-year-old son. With only $10 in materials, the boy (who grew up with missing fingers) can now use a cyborg hand to do everyday tasks.
What makes this even more inspiring is that the prosthetic hand can be continually tweaked as the boy grows older to accommodate his changing arm size. All of this can be done without even having to go through an expensive corporation. It's a way forward in allowing people to help members of their own family when budgets preclude any other option.
But while these prosthetic limbs are certainly useful, they aren't state-of-the-art. How will that affect things as more people turn to making prosthetic arms and hands?
The Evolution of 3D Prosthetic Design
The prosthetic limbs created above all look a bit crude considering they aren't made with corporate materials. In many ways, it shows that 3D printing to help create hi-tech limbs are still a number of years away. This doesn't take away from the fact that these limbs still work just as well as one made from a hi-tech company. The only difference is in their appearance rather than function.
Regardless, with 3D printing evolution moving at a quicker pace as each month passes, don't be surprised to see the ability to print more advanced prosthetic limbs right in our homes before the end of the decade. While this may require some regulations from the government, allowing this could help people save exponential money on healthcare. That's especially true as the loss of limbs is still an unfortunate fact of life for far too many around the world due to violence.
Keep reading us here at 3DPrinting.org to follow the exciting path of prosthetic limbs being created on 3D printers.