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The Evolution of Prosthetics: How 3D Printing and Software Has Spearheaded Innovation  



Two engineerings looking at prosthetic limbs.


Advancements in prosthetic technology have allowed for the creation of more affordable, accessible, and higher-quality prosthetics, improving the quality of life of many patients worldwide. And with the advent of 3D printing technology, engineers are continually leading innovative breakthroughs in prosthetics, opening the door for millions of candidates who in the past could have never afforded a prosthetic solution.


A History of Innovation

The roots of prosthetics can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where artificial toes and hands were employed for both functional and aesthetic purposes. In the Middle Ages, knights sought to reclaim their lost limbs by employing iron or steel hands. However, it was not until 1529 that Ambroise Pare introduced the first genuine prosthetic hand. This initial design was characterized by its bulky and inflexible nature, rendering it limited in functionality. Notably, it was only during the late 19th century that the invention of the first elbow prosthetic facilitated a degree of movement.

The true leap forward for prosthetics occurred in the aftermath of the World Wars. In 1912, Dr. James Edward Hanger, himself an amputee, devised the first modern trans-radial (below the elbow) prosthetic. The 1950s witnessed another turning point, as the introduction of lighter and stronger materials such as aluminum and plastic significantly enhanced the functionality of prosthetic devices.


Prosthetics Today

In recent years, the progression of prosthetic technology has ushered in a transformative era. Medical professionals now combine innovative 3D printing techniques with flexible, pliable materials to fashion prosthetics with lifelike movement and flexibility. The advent of 3D printing has enabled customization, accelerated production timelines, and reduced costs, thereby enhancing accessibility for those in need. Moreover, the materials available today exhibit remarkable durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal, amplifying patient satisfaction to new heights.


Customization and Affordability

Another game-changer along with 3D printing is the 3D CAD design software which allows for complete customization for individuals, enabling design engineers to create cost-effective prosthetics on demand, in record time.

This technology is especially impactful because no two cases are exactly the same. For example, some prosthetic hand candidates may be missing all five fingers, while others may be missing the pinky finger and thumb, and so on.

Also, a prosthetic limb could have cost tens of thousands of dollars. And in the case of children, they would be quickly outgrown, making it cost-prohibitive for the majority of the world. Now, mechanical prosthetic devices, which are made of plastics and are body-driven with no electronic components, can be produced for a couple of hundred dollars or less.


Continued Innovation Through Collaboration

In conclusion, prosthetic technology has come a long way since its earliest inception. We have now reached an era where prosthetics are more affordable, functional, and customizable than ever before, thus opening up new opportunities for patients worldwide who depend on these devices for their daily lives. For the prosthetics industry, it is essential to continue to innovate so that patients can affordably have the best quality of life possible.

As a mechanical design firm that fosters innovation in close collaboration with our client partners, we think it is vital to impact the world in ways previously never imagined, making the once impossible, now possible!  If you are interested in learning more about 3D printing in medical device engineering, contact us today, or call and speak with one of our experts at (440) 253-0586.   We would be happy to answer any questions you may have!


About Landi Industries

Built on a foundation of delivering quality, Landi Industries, an American engineering and manufacturing firm, was created to revolutionize the way the world views manufacturing. Our mission is to help companies bring their products to market by providing end-to-end engineering and manufacturing services. Learn more about our mechanical design, fabrication, software engineering, and electrical engineering capabilities.