A six-year-old boy on Monday became the first person in France to receive an ultra-low-cost prosthetic limb, the result of an open source 3D printing revolution that is transforming the prosthetics industry.
Maxence, from the Isère region in south-eastern France, was born without a right hand. On Monday he was fitted with a prosthetic hand, made from a 3D printer, costing less than 50 euros to produce.
The technology has been promoted by US -based group e-Nable, one of a number of organisations to have released the data publicly so that anyone can print their own device for free.
Since 2013, more than 1,500 plastic limbs have been made, although Maxence is the first French person to benefit to date.
When he was born, Maxence’s parents made the decision not to equip their son with an expensive prosthesis, and the boy has grown up learning instinctively how to cope with life with just one hand.
But the new device looks set to open up a world of opportunities for the youngster. It’s easy to use, it doesn’t require an operation, and it fits on his arm like a glove, held by Velcro straps.
“This particular device is aimed at children who have at least a wrist and part of the palm of the hand,” said Thierry Oquidam, the French businessman who is promoting e-Nable’s prosthetics technology in France.
“Flexing the wrist moves the fingers on the device,” he explained. “The mechanism, which is extremely simple, isn’t up to delicate tasks such as tying shoelaces, but it will allow him to hold on to the rope of a swing, ride a scooter or catch a ball.”
Oquidam said another benefit was that the simply-produced devices, which can be made in just about any colour scheme imaginable, had a “fun” aspect that will appeal to children more than “ugly” traditional prosthetic devices.
It is also much cheaper, an essential factor for a child who will have to “upgrade” the device as he grows. When a new hand is needed, it can be simply and cheaply printed out.
Both Oquidam and Maxence’s parents are keen on one aspect of the technology: namely that its open source nature means it is not constrained by medical patents, a factor that will keep costs down permanently.
“In the same way that Uber has up-ended the taxi industry, 3D printing is going to have a profound impact on a number of professions, particularly in the medical profession,” he said.
Date created : 2015-08-17