Medical Manufacturing & Outsourcing - Version A. April 2021 - 18

TECH BRIEFS
Low-Cost, Customized Prosthesis Using 3D Printing
A novel 3D-printed prosthetic arm is more comfortable, flexible, and cheaper than a
conventional prosthesis.
Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore

U

pper limb forequarter amputations
that involve the removal of the
entire arm and scapula require highly
customized prosthetic devices that are
expensive but yet usually underutilized
due to their high maintenance and low
comfort levels. At the same time, while
cosmetic prostheses - artificial limbs
that provide patients the appearance
of a pre-amputated body part - have
a higher rate of continuous use, they
have limitations in functional use.
Combining both technical and clinical
expertise, the Singapore University
of Technology and Design's (SUTD)
Medical Engineering and Design
Laboratory collaborated with Tan
Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) Foot
Care and Limb Design Centre, the
largest provider of prosthetic services
in Singapore, on a patient-specific
upper limb prosthesis. This cosmetic
prosthesis with a self-locking function
was found to be more comfortable and
around 20 percent cheaper compared
to similar prostheses available.
To reduce the under-utilization and
delivery time while taking improved

Patient
Needs

Capture
Geometry

Geometry
Processing

B

C

The research team used a digital
scanner to capture residuum and
contralateral arm geometries to
replicate the patient's arm with
high precision. They then designed
different parts of the prosthesis from
the captured geometries, 3D printed
and verified these for fit, comfort,
and function. Their research paper
was published in the Prosthetics and
Orthotics International Journal.
The patient's satisfaction for
the 3D-printed prosthesis over his
conventionally made prosthesis rated
higher for its overall effectiveness,
accurate size, symmetrical appearance
and ease of use. Even though the new
prosthesis weighed 100 g more than the
current prosthesis, the patient preferred
it due to its improved suspension
contributing to the feel of a lighter arm
during use. However, the prosthesis was
perceived to be less durable due to the
patient's unfamiliarity with the quality
of 3D printing, his concerns of the
elbow locking mechanism breaking, and
the appearance of the mesh structure
compared to his current prosthesis.

Verification
and Fitting

3D
Printing

Prothesis
Design

Design and Design Analysis

Data Collection
A

fit, function, and comfort into
consideration, the research team turned
to 3D printing due to its versatility
and ability to cater to the device's
geometrical and functional complexity.
The team also adopted a usercentered design approach, involving
the patient throughout the customized
design and development process.
They then meticulously captured
and documented the design process
so that it can serve as a blueprint
for other device applications or be
replicated for other patients with limb
amputations, thus reducing the over
re-liance on a prosthetist's judgment,
skills, and experience for an optimal fit.
Based on regular consultations
with the patient and prosthetist at
TTSH, including the shadowing of the
patient to better understand his daily
activities and functional needs, it was
concluded that the new prosthesis
needed to be lightweight, capable
of dissipating heat, locking at 90°
of flexion, comfortable to wear, and
void of metal components that would
be detectable by airport scanners.

Delivery &
Survey

Prototyping and Final Product Manufacturing
D

E

F

The schematic representation of the various stages involved in the user-centered, iterative process of prosthesis design. (Credit: SUTD)
18 APRIL 2021

MEDICAL MANUFACTURING AND OUTSOURCING SPECIAL REPORT



Medical Manufacturing & Outsourcing - Version A. April 2021

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