Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Prosthetic Limbs Created With 3D Scanning and Printing

While there are many medical applications for 3D scanning, some of the more significant projects we’ve seen use the technology to promote healing, dignity, and even a sense of community.  The creation of prosthetic limbs is an incredible example of how 3D scanning and 3D printing are enriching lives. On one end of the spectrum we see new limbs that can be incredibly detailed and realistic, at the other end is an amazing crowd sourcing movement that helps create simple, futuristic, robotic prostheses for those who can't afford them otherwise.

An example of the first type of prosthetic was a patient who came to our facility that had lost a hand in a tragic accident. The goal was to create a new life-like hand including the fine details of skin texture. His doctor was interested in how 3D laser scanning might augment his typical methods. The doctor came to Direct Dimensions’ lab with a plaster casting he had taken of his patient’s intact hand. We scanned this casting two different ways to ensure the highest quality of data possible: first with a laser line scanner mounted on a Faro Arm and second with a laser line scanner mounted on a motorized precision coordinate measuring machine, or CMM.The resulting data from the scans was incredibly detailed, containing millions of 3D polygons. During the modeling process, utilizing PolyWorks software, the model was also flipped to create a mirror of the plaster casting and a faithful re-creation of the clients lost hand.

The high resolution 3D digital model was used to create a 3D print at an incredibly high resolution. The prototype prosthetic hand which we delivered was so lifelike that you could even see pores and hair follicles. Using the prototype hand a finalized prosthetic in silicone was created with no loss of detail - truly an exceptional achievement,

Another example of innovative prosthetic creation is the amazing hand project powered by a community of makers with desktop 3D printers.  A group called e-NABLE facilitates the effort by crowdsourcing the design and fabrication of 3D printed ‘robot’ hands.  These plastic hands give function to those in need, particularly children, missing hands for various reasons, and usually unsuited for expensive prosthetics.  We are proud to have contributed over a dozen 3D printed hands to the project as well as authoring an illustrated instruction manual for assembly for the international e-NABLE community.