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What you need to know about 3D printed prosthetics

What you need to know about 3D printed prostheticsIt seems like a popular trend in 2015 is 3D printed everything and prosthetics are no exception. Here’s why we love this trend, but probably aren’t going to “print” your prosthesis next time you come in.

3D printing technology is still in its infancy

It is an inescapable fact that technology is always changing—many things that are commonplace today weren’t even in the realm of possibility 50 years ago. 3D printers have come a long way in what seems like a very short amount of time, but they are still only in their foundational stages and new methods and materials are being developed every day. Coping with all this to create the best possible prosthesis for any given patient is a tall order.

Prosthetics technologies require a lot of testing

While it is easy to take an existing prosthetic design and tweak it to work in a particular case or add features to increase its effectiveness, designing prosthetic limbs from start to finish is a serious job and requires a lot of testing and experimental models before they are ready for general use. This is what makes these 3D printed prosthetic limbs so interesting to us—they are experimental models of the future of prosthetics technologies.

3D printing doesn’t reduce the amount of work required of a prosthetist

One day in the future you may come into our clinic and find a 3D printer whirring along creating your prosthesis, but that is still a long time off. As it is now, 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) requires most of the same work required of a prosthetist today, but it is shifted to computer modeling. To print a prosthesis, the prosthetist still has  to create a model of your residual limb and then create a second model of a prosthesis designed to fit your residual limb to  enable you to perform the many functions required of the limb, all while keeping everything balanced properly. The difference is where the modeling happens.

3D printing is still relatively expensive comparatively

3D printing technologies have been around longer than you’d think, but they have only recently reached a level of cost that makes them attainable enough to be attractive, but they are still comparatively expensive. They simply haven’t reached the level of maturity required to make them sustainable for widespread manufacturing use. It is a little like laptops in the mid 1980s—they existed, but were big and expensive—compared to laptops now. As with all technologies, there will come a day when everybody is printing prosthetics, but that is not today.

Are you currently facing amputation, struggling with a poorly fitting prosthesis, or something in between?  Call Premier Prosthetic Center in Knoxville today at (865) 474-7096 or schedule a free consultation online and let our highly-qualified staff create prosthesis for your unique lifestyle with our specialized design and fitting process.

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