While working in the prosthetics industry, Eythor Bender, co-founder and chief executive officer of UNYQ, spent several years helping to develop and launch different prostheses to get amputees moving again.
However, Bender, formerly president of Össur Americas, said he believed these projects were never completely finished when it came to the look and the aesthetics.
Wanting to create something that would bring a unique look and feel to prosthetics, he met with colleague Manuel Boza, co-founder and chief creative officer of UNYQ, and was inspired by the work he had been doing with 3-D printed fairings in Spain.
“Manuel’s work showed that we could bring creativity and style into this industry again, but in a scalable format so it would be affordable to people,” Bender said.
UNYQ started to unfold in March 2014 and the company officially launched in the beginning of May with headquarters in San Francisco and Seville, Spain. UNYQ also recently displayed at OT World in Leipzig, Germany, where the company received positive feedback, Bender said.
Although the company’s current focus is on transfemoral fairings, the overall goal is to include transtibial and upper extremity fairings to market later this year. The company is also working toward reducing their delivery time from 4 weeks to 6 weeks to 2 weeks to 3 weeks.
“The main goal is to, first and foremost, restore the aesthetic look and style to prosthetic devices in an affordable way,” Bender said. “We want to make people aware, both amputees and clinicians, that this is now available and possible.”
UNYQ currently has 25 limited edition collections of fairings, and amputees can use these as a foundation for their own creative ideas as well as create a symmetrical match to their sound leg. Designers will also craft a fairing to the customer’s specifications, according to the website.
Experimenting with fairings
Boza began experimenting with the design and creation of fairings in 2012 because he did not care for the PVC and silicone cosmetic finishes of traditional prosthetic coverings.
“Besides having worked in this industry for a long time, Manuel is a transfemoral amputee,” Bender said. “Two years ago he started experimenting with fairings and launched a collection of fairings to test the concept in Spain.”
After 130 people in Spain had tested the fairings, Boza presented his findings to Bender, who knew his colleague had created something they could work with. By using 3-D printing and data capture using smart-phones, the two were also able to figure out how to lessen the cost of their fairings, which ordinarily can run between $4,000 and $6,000, to around $1,000.
Bender said 3-D printing has become much more affordable and produces a good quality product.
“The way we capture the data is, I think, the unique part because we were able to do that working with users taking their own photos of their sound leg as well as the prosthetic leg,” Bender said. “We certainly can use scanning devices as well, but in this day and age being able to simply make completely symmetrical prosthetic fairings from data that amputees take on their iPhones in their homes is pretty revolutionary.”
Bringing back creativity
One of Bender’s biggest hopes with the launch of UNYQ is to work closely with the end user from the beginning instead of providing patients with a device they put little input into.
For individuals interested in entering or already involved the O&P industry, Bender encourages breaking away from industry standards and adding more creativity into their designs.
“People just don’t want to accept it anymore. Neither the amputees nor the younger generation of clinicians who are coming up from our schools,” Bender said. “I think it is about stepping up and shaking off our legacy. We have gained mobility beyond what we have ever imagined, but at the same time we have knocked the creativity out of the process. Now with 3-D printing we can bring the creativity back. I think it’s about having the courage to be creative.” — by Casey Tingle
Disclosure: Bender is co-founder and chief executive officer of UNYQ.