“Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.” The famous saying also applies to medical equipment, it appears. Customized physical supports are expensive to purchase and can take a long time to produce. Or you can buy a 3D printer and create your own. We’ve reported on families who have turned to DIY solutions to help children for everything from body braces to prosthetic hands. The result is low-cost devices that fit better and can be replaced more often as children grow.
Here’s another similar story. Cerebral palsy (CP) afflicts more than 17 million people worldwide, limiting their ability to walk and perform other common tasks. A father whose son was diagnosed with CP was dismayed by the poor fit of standard orthotics, and by the high cost (and long lead time) for custom devices. He decided to print his own using a 3D printer. He started by coming up with a way to scan his son’s feet when in a standing, load-bearing position. He then printed orthotics to provide better leg support. The first model went nearly to his son’s knee, but he discovered that this restricted his walking more than it helped. He came up with a design that barely covers the back of the heel, and fits almost entirely within a normal shoe. After 13 attempts, he came up with a design that keeps his son’s feet in the proper position as he walks, runs, and even jumps. And each set takes less than 24 hours to produce.
The family has created a new company, aNImaKe, to apply this technology to help other children with CP and other physical challenges. Low-cost off-the-shelf technology tools such as 3D printers are likely to help individuals create new solutions for a range of health and medical problems.