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The $100 3D-Printed Artificial Limb 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
harrymcc writes "In 2012, TIME wrote about Daniel Omar, a 14-year-old in South Sudan who lost both arms to a bomb dropped by his own government. Mick Ebeling of Not Impossible Labs read the story, was moved — and went to Sudan, where he set up a 3D printing lab which can produce an artificial arm for $100. Omar and others have received them, and Ebeling hopes that other organizations around the world will adopt his open-source design to help amputees, many of whom will never receive more conventional prosthetics."
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The $100 3D-Printed Artificial Limb

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  • by Thud457 (234763) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:07PM (#45892267) Homepage Journal
    A good start, but with a per capita GDP of ~$1100 USD [worldbank.org], that's still a good chunk of money. Keep working on driving down costs, guys!

    For $120, you can give the gift of GOAT [heifer.org].
  • by PSVMOrnot (885854) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:23PM (#45892411)

    The beautiful thing about this is that while such certification and testing may be required of manufacturers and distributors of such products, there is nothing that can be done to stop you from building one yourself or with a few friends.

    There are others [robohand.net] who have also traveled this path, and a number of open source designs available for anyone to have a go at: Robohand @ Thingiverse [thingiverse.com], Prosthetics @ Thingiverse [thingiverse.com]

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:48PM (#45892663)
    I don't think the idea is that Sudanese will be forking over $100 for an artificial limb. This is a charitable cause. If you watch the video closely, enough raw material was unloaded to make at least 1,000 and they were left with the manufacturing means and training to make more. The article states that they are currently making about one per week. I don't think anyone over there has the money for this, which brings it back to a charitable cause.

    You did read the article and watch the video, right?

    When the $100 figure is cited, they are not saying that the Sudanese will be forking over that sum, they are saying that at that price point, they can be provided as a charitable cause. Considering this guy was able to raise the money to do this in the first place, I am sure there is material resupply money at hand.

    Also, you are a jerk.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:39PM (#45893103)

    Having worked with prosthetics for years as an occularist and training to make prosthtic limbs, I know just how complex they can become.

    There are two main categories of limbs, AK (or AE) and BK (or BE) depending on if the patient's limbs were removed Above the Knee (/elbow) or Below the Knee (/elbow). AK prosthetics are MUCH more complex than BK due to having to produce a joint that locks when needed then unlocks when needed. It's not simple at all. Arms are much the same, adding an elbow joint greatly increases the complexity and cost to produce a working prosthetic.

    Remember this: The prosthetic was produced for $100 in parts. That does not cover the time it took to produce the device. It doesn't cover the cost of the machine that produced the device. It didn't cover the cost of the education that the manufacturer was required to have (If he was working in the US prior to this) and it didn't cover any of the training that's needed to be able to actually use one of these devices. All of those costs were shouldered by the men who chose to help. That's wonderful! I applaud it readily!

    But I don't think it's sustainable. What happens when rent is due or someone wants him to pay for dinner? Free is not sustainable. Should a prosthetic device cost $10,000? Probably not. $100,000? I can think of three devices which cost that much. One is a leg that has powered ankle and knee joints which allow users to walk, jog, climb, and run like normal people. One is a hand that moves like a real hand and is controlled by the user's thoughts. The other is a prosthetic eye which actually allows a blind person to see again. They are all so expensive because they are bleeding edge devices which are still in trials (and as such, only a few of them actually exist to purchase.)

    In reality, a prosthetic eye shouldn't cost more than $100-200. The problem with that is that there are so few people who need them, and the skills required to make them are so complex, that it would be impossible to survive as an occularist without charging much, much more. (I see about 100 clients a year and I am the only occularist in my state.)

    Prosthetic legs are different. 80% of a prosthetic leg comes off a shelf. I buy feet, ankles, knees, and "shins;" then bolt them on to sockets I make custom for each patient. I don't have any control over how much a knee costs my clients. I could easily hire a machinist to produce the parts for a fraction of the cost, but that is illegal. I could easily go to the hardware store and grab a 1 inch aluminum pipe to use as a shin for a client for a couple of dollars, but it's illegal to do so even though it's the exact same part I buy for around $100 from a supplier.

    Even if I could cut my costs down by making or buying cheaper parts legally, it would be impossible to produce a $100 prosthetic in anything resembling a sustainable business model. There just aren't enough clients out there who need my services for me to keep my employees lights on at that price.

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