3D Prosthetics

September 9, 2015 | Greg Astill

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An exciting opportunity that came from the use of 3D printers has been the improvement in prosthetics and giving people all over the world access to this technology. One local teenager by the name of Jacob hopes to offer his talents to this cause in the future. Jacob took the classes on 3D printing and design at the library and spent a lot of time and energy building a prototype of a prosthetic leg. 

The design won him numerous awards at Science fairs. After he printed a prototype at the library, Jacob wrote to University of Toronto Professor Matt Ratto, who has experience bringing 3D printed prosthetics to Uganda. Ratto happens to be the first speaker at the new Hub Talk series that kicks off tomorrow night. 

Jacob came by the Hub at the Toronto Reference Library with his design and sat down with Hub librarian Fiona who did a Q & A with him. Below are some photos and highlights of their conversation.

Jacob and Fiona

Jacob with Digital Innovation Hub Librarian Fiona

How did you get started in 3D design and printing? How did you come up with the idea of a prosthetic leg?

I play hockey and found many of the players were hitting their head while playing and suffering from concussions. At the time I was in Grade 7 and thought I would make a better helmet for his Grade 8 Science fair project. After a bit of research, I started to read about prosthetic legs in underdeveloped countries. I found that there are only 10 licensed professionals who can make a prosthetic leg and it takes 7 days to complete. Because diseases are common in underdeveloped countries, the result can be losing a limb. I then changed my Grade 8 Science fair project to 3D printed prosthetic legs. I thought by creating a 3D design of a leg, professionals in South Africa could print prosthetic legs. The process of building a leg using a 3D printer is faster to make than using the traditional method.

What program and materials did you use to create the leg?

I used 123D design and AutoCAD, student trial version, to build the leg.

AutoCAD was only used to refine the design. The majority of the design was made using 123D design.

I would like to learn the program Sculptress because I think it would be easier.

I used PLA for the prototype.

The full version was printed using ABS and ABS ninja flex.

How long did it take you?

I have printed two prosthetic legs. The first print was a prototype using the MakerBot Replicator 2 in the Digital Innovation Hub at the Toronto Reference Library. The prototype took 7 hours to make. The full sized leg was made using the 3D printers at the University of Toronto. The second print took a total of 32 hours.

prosthetic leg

Leg with the Ninja Flex material for bending

Is this what you would like to do in the future?

I am in interested in the medical field. I am also interested in medical engineering. I would like to create pieces of the brain, just a thought.

Have you won any awards?

I won two awards at the Grade 8 Science fair. I won first in my school district and won bronze in the regionals.


Jacob's awards.

What is your connection with Matt Ratto?

I wrote to him after I built my first prosthetic leg prototype. He met with me and showed me what he has done with his Africa project. He then guided me in the full version. He also showed me how to reduce my print time. He printed the full version of the leg in the 3D printing lab at U of T.

An example of print reduction can be seen in the thigh socket, it was previously designed without slots.

thigh socket

Thigh socket

Next project?

I’d like to perfect the prosthetic leg and also I would like to print my own robotic drone with a GPS.

Jacob talking to other participants
Jacob talking to other library patrons about his design

Hopefully you can come by tomorrow night for what should be a very informative discussion on 3D printing and bringing the technology to other parts of the world. If you can't make, be sure to check back for more details about how you can watch the talk as we'll have staff on hand filming the event for posting online at a later date.

Have fun!!