3-D Printing Opens World of Prosthetic Design

Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke Innovations in San Francisco, joined
orthopedic surgeon/engineer Kenneth Trauner, MD, to honor “the
individuality and sculpture that is the human body,” Summit said.

  Scott Summit
  Scott Summit

Although current prosthetics has come a long way from its humble
beginnings, Summit said that he finds it lacking — “a solution that
was left half-completed.” Despite advances in biomechanics, the aesthetics
of these prosthetic devices still leave much to be desired. Bespoke Innovations
aims to create a product that goes beyond mass production, he said.

“Our intent is to create a custom product that showcases the leg
rather than hiding it, and that makes it something that the user is excited to
show the world,” he said. “Our hope is that this will improve every
minute of every day for that person.”

To create the design, first Summit meets with the amputee to obtain
information about his or her personality, tastes and lifestyle, which then
drives the development of the rest of the device. He scans in 3-D the
person’s natural leg and mirrors the prosthetic leg from that shape
through a combination of design and 3-D computer-aided design (CAD). The device’s components are printed in 3-D using a
technique called additive manufacturing technology, where materials are joined
together, layer by layer. To finish the device, Summit adds metal, wood,
leather or other various treatments to the outer layer.

“I like to think that this will change the perception of amputees
by the rest of the world,” he said. “If a person stares at a leg
because it is the most beautiful object they’ve seen that day, then the
entire story of prosthetics and amputations has changed.”

An added benefit to this technology is that the parts created through a
process called selective laser sintering are dishwasher-safe. Summit explained
that the basic polymer parts are best for this type of cleaning — parts
wrapped in material, wood or plated in metal should be treated a bit more
gently — and they can stand up to frequent washing.

  The basic polymer parts of the device are dishwasher-safe and can stand up to frequent washing.
  The basic polymer parts of the
device are dishwasher-safe and can stand up to frequent washing.

“We recommend a mild detergent and low heat settings,” he
said. “Lemon fresh scent is optional.”

According to the company’s website, Bespoke currently works only
with unilateral transtibial amputees, although accommodations can be made for
bilateral amputees who bring in a model with similar body structure to
represent the missing natural limbs.

Thus far, Summit and Bespoke has been working with a pilot group of
amputees to test the device, who have been excited by the results, he told
O&P Business News.

“A woman has bought skirts, boots and shorts, since she no longer
feels the need to hide the foam cosmesis that she had always had. Another user
is more competitive on the soccer field, since the leg inspires him and is
admired by the other players,” he said. “In general, people look
forward to showing the new leg to everyone they can.”

  Bespoke Innovations is working to create custom products that not only showcase the leg, but that the wearer is excited to show to others.
  Bespoke Innovations is working to
create custom products that not only showcase the leg, but that the wearer is
excited to show to others.
  Images: Bespoke Innovations.

Bespoke continues to use this feedback to improve the technology and
fine-tune the process to make it more affordable and, therefore, available to
more people. Summit said that he sees this type of 3-D printing as an
open-ended area of research and takes all offers of feedback into account for
future designs.

“Many new technologies are arriving on the scene, and researchers
and designers are looking for ways to connect these with real human
needs,” he said. “We hope that our process will improve the lives of
all of those we can design for, and I suspect that many more innovations are in
store.” — by Stephanie Z. Pavlou

For more information:

Disclosure: Scott Summit is the
co-founder of Bespoke Innovations.


It’s exciting to see what Bespoke Innovations is doing with 3-D
printing. 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) was introduced into prosthetics and
orthotics approximately 15 years ago by Seattle Systems and by Ohio Willow Wood
shortly thereafter. This profession continues to benefit by the advances in
technology and more specifically CAD systems.

Cosmesis is always a factor to be considered in prosthetics. There are
several companies that can make a silicone prosthesis look as real as the one
that has been lost, but the question of cost and payment is an issue with
cosmesis of a prosthesis. It will be interesting to see how cost-effective
companies like Bespoke Innovations prosthetic components will be. It seems that
within the last couple of years more and more patients want their prosthesis to
set them apart from others and not necessarily look life like. Two patients
within the last couple of years come to mind: one is interfaced finished in
chrome and another had his running leg stenciled and painted in digital

With the technology like Bespoke Innovations are using,
it might not be long until “Transformers” and “Iron Man”
aren’t just in the movies.

— Dan Smoker, LPO
Alabama Artificial Limb
& Orthopedic Service Inc.
Disclosure: Dan Smoker, LPO, has no financial
or other conflicts of interest regarding this article.

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