Technology

Father prints arm for amputee son

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“The success of my patented DAHB mechanism draws on the advanced capabilities of the Stratasys Connex Printer – the ability to combine rigid and soft materials in a single print was vital to the success of the design,” explains Ben. “We were fortunate enough to have access to this technology, which enabled us to 3D print a prototype arm so quickly and cost-effectively. In founding Ambionics, it’s now my goal to ensure that other limb deficient children like my son are not faced with the current constraints and delays of traditional prosthetic manufacture.” To develop the design for the prosthetic, Ben relied on the use of Autodesk Fusion 360.

From scan to arm in five days

“This is a very innovative and ambitious project and it’s been inspiring to work with Ben on it,” says Paul Sohi, a product design expert at Autodesk. “It is amazing that despite Ben having no real background in product design, he’s effectively taught himself enough to create something that will not only help his own son Sol, but in Ambionics, potentially others facing the same challenges too.”

As well as its lightweight 3D printed design that weighs less than traditional myoelectric alternatives, the hydraulic prosthetic is body-powered and enables infants to grow accustomed to their “arm” earlier than traditional fittings. The ability to operate without the need for any electronic devices or batteries is unique to the Ambionics design and mitigates the risk of injury.

While the NHS takes 11 weeks to convert the plaster cast of the arm into a wearable prosthetic, Ben Ryan was able to produce the prosthetic in only five days. With the flexibility to keep the scan on file, the digital copy allows replacement prosthetics to be easily produced through 3D printing.

“Essentially the entire prosthetic is 3D printed,” Ben adds. “Only Stratasys’ strong rubber-like and dissolvable support 3D printing materials make production and use of the DAHB units possible. The internal cavities are complex and it would be impossible to remove the support material using mechanical means. The materials must also be strong yet flexible as they are used to transmit fluid pressure to operate the grip.”

Having patented its DAHB technology inside the prosthetic, Ambionics is aiming to offer the service to healthcare providers worldwide. Continuing its research and testing into infant development with prosthetics, the company is starting a Crowdfunding campaign on March 1st to enable medical device usability trials, which are required before seeking authorisation to launch the product into the market.

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“This case is indicative of 3D printing’s ability to improve lives by overcoming the traditional barriers of low-volume manufacturing,” says Scott Rader, General Manager, Healthcare Solutions, Stratasys. “We continue to support and enable innovators like Ben to bring customisation to mainstream prosthetics manufacture,” he concludes.

More information on stratasys.com.

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