The forever improving technology of 3d printing is becoming better and better, especially for the health and medical industry. 3d printing technology has allowed people, especially those that have lost limbs due to birth defects or serious injuries, to have a shot at a normal life.
One man in particular by the name of Paul Teupal has been lucky enough to be able to make the most of 3d printers and their benefits. Paul was born missing most of his left arm and has been using the support of prosthetics since he was as young as three years old.
Paul Teupal, unfortunately, had a few bad run-ins with prosthetic limbs, describing them as a horrible contraption that “pushed me to not wear any prosthesis at all for a few years.”
When Teupal reached the age of 12, he had been given a myoelectric prosthetic which now allowed him to pick objects up and hold them; this is something he was unable to do prior to the myoelectric prosthesis.
But wait, what is myoelectric prosthesis?
A myoelectric prosthesis is an externally powered artificial limb that you control with the electrical signals generated naturally by your own muscles.
It was after this that he started to wear his prosthetic limb every day. Although his movement was still restricted, this was a huge improvement compared to before when he couldn’t do anything at all.
In 2017, an orthopaedic technician from Bernburg, Germany, told Teupel that it was time to get rid of his prosthetic arm because this technician had plans in mind to create and manufacture a prosthetic limb for him that was much better than anything he had ever tried on before.
The technician began his work on the prosthetic as part of his master’s thesis at Sanitätshaus Klinz. It took him 10 months to create a fully functional bionic arm using 3D scanning and printing.
One of the German health systems goals is to help reduce costs associated with fitting and providing bionic limbs. This is a positive change in the German government’s health insurance system which will nationally condone and regulate the use of 3D scanning and printing of prostheses as a superior option to using any traditional methods.
This decision was made not only because of the cost-effective nature of 3D scanning and printing but also because the 3d printed limbs have proven to be more durable and provide stronger mobility and are a lot more comfortable than traditional limbs.
Creating the Arm Itself
The technician who was working on a solution for Teupal’s mobility and limb issues was able to quickly develop a suitable prosthetic arm using his expertise in orthopaedics as well as his knowledge of 3D scanning and printing.
“With many hundreds, if not thousands of movements performed each day, Paul’s body needs a prosthesis that naturally harmonizes with it, as an extension of the body, so that within a short period of time, he can just live his life and not think about his arm, “That was my goal.”
Around midway through his project, the technician began using an Artec3D scanner from KLIB. The technician and his wonderful team received training on how to use handheld 3D scanners such as Eva and Space Spider.
It only took roughly 10 months to go from the first prototype to a ready to use, fully functional bionic arm. The design was printed using PA2200 plastic and sports a hand that was purchased from a German prosthetics company called Ottobock.
Tupeals new arm includes cables and wires which lead to sensors from Teupel’s skin that pick up on muscle electricity to move the arm and hand. If we’re completely honest, we think that its amazing that we can not only 3d print prosthetics, but we can also make prosthetics for patients that allow for movent relying on signals from the brain.