Video: Prosthetics maker forges alliance to 3D-print cheaper alternatives
Stratasys, a 3D printing company, and Dassault Systemes, which makes design software, said they will work with a group called Unlimited Tomorrow to scale custom-designed, low-cost robotic arms for amputees.
Under the partnership, Stratasys will become the dedicated 3D printing provider for Unlimited Tomorrow. The low-cost prosthetic effort was started by Easton LaChappelle, an entrepreneur who founded Unlimited Tomorrow when he was 17. Dassault will be the dedicated software provider.
LaChappelle's idea was to cut costs for recipients receiving prosthetics, which can run anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000. For children, those costs are limiting since they can outgrow models. Unlimited Tomorrow aims to address customization, weight, and cost with digital, scanning, and 3D printing techniques to speed up development and fittings.
According to LaChappelle, the baseline costs for an Unlimited Tomorrow prosthetic will run $5,000, and there's a service model for children when they outgrow the device for $2,500 and an upgrade.
Unlimited tomorrow is using Indiegogo for its fundraising efforts.
With help from Stratasys and Dassault, Unlimited Tomorrow is looking to scale its efforts. Unlimited Tomorrow competes with Open Bionics, another company creating 3D printed prosthetics. LaChappelle said that Open Bionics uses rigid materials while Unlimited Tomorrow isn't.
Unlimited Tomorrow with Stratasys can print in any color and has automated the design process so it's unique to the individual. Here's the process:
- 3D scanners collect data from the missing arm and opposite full arm if possible.
- The data runs through proprietary software and automatically exports files ready to be 3D printed.
- Prosthetic is then printed and combined with sensors and wireless charging to manage force feedback through haptics.
The Unlimited Tomorrow-Stratasys-Dassault partnership is a mutual win on many levels. Unlimited Tomorrow gets the scale and expertise. Mike Gaisford, director of healthcare solutions at Stratasys, said the partnership includes research and development, design collaboration and knowhow from Stratasys Direct Manufacturing.
"While this relationship is a key piece of Stratasys' Corporate Social Responsibility Program, it goes much deeper," said Gaisford. "Stratasys is playing a three-tier role: We are providing actual funding to power Unlimited Tomorrow's operation and growth; we are 3D printing all components for the first 100 arms at no cost; and we're bringing Unlimited Tomorrow's innovation-to-production scale by guiding the Design for Additive Manufacturing (DFAM) process."