3D Printing

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    A group of UVic engineers is working with 3-D printers to help children in the developing world. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Richard Watts

    UVic engineers use 3-D printing to help children overseas

    A group of UVic engineers is working with 3-D printers to help children in the developing world.

    The bio-medical engineers use the printers to fashion corrective devices and braces to treat clubfoot and scoliosis, curvature of the spine. They will begin in Nepal.

    The group has been awarded a $100,000 seed grant, one of 20 across Canada. The federal government’s Grand Challenges Canada announced $2 million in grants on Monday.

    UVic team member Nick Dechev said the two orthotic conditions are no more common in developing countries than in Canada. But a visitor to the developing world is likely to notice adults and children with disabling deformities of their feet and bent spines.

    Most people with the two conditions don’t receive the inexpensive and simple corrective measures in childhood.

    “In Western countries, it is relatively rare to see an adult with a clubfoot,” said Dechev. “But if you go to the developing world, it’s not uncommon to see adults with their feet rotated outwards at 90 degrees.”

    With scoliosis, in countries such as Canada, children whose spines begin to curve are often treated with corrective braces. These are worn for a few years until bones stop growing.

    Dechev said his team believes that for less than $50 worth of plastic and printer time, effective treatment devices can be fashioned to assist a child overseas with either of the two deformities.

    That’s to make immobilizing foot platforms and braces worn by infants and toddlers to treat clubfoot, and plastic girdles worn by children, ages six to eight, for scoliosis.

    Dechev is part of the Victoria Hand Project, an already successful entry into assisting people in the developing world using 3-D printers. It has deployed scanners and 3-D printers to fashion customized prosthetic hands in Nepal, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti, Cambodia and Egypt.

    The Victoria Hand Project partners with existing clinics overseas where it sets up a 3-D printer and scanner. It trains locals to use the machines to fashion customized prosthetics. Including the cost of materials and local wages, the cost of a prosthetic hand is about $300.

    That same device in the developed world runs about $3,000, largely due to higher wages.

    Dechev said it’s expected the latest move to treat clubfoot and scoliosis will piggyback on the Victoria Hand Project. That group has already installed printers and scanners and trained technicians.

    “Eventually, it’s expected the Victoria Hand Project will inherit the orthotic technology and deploy it,” he said.

    The latest research grant will be used to test the effectiveness of the 3-D-printed, plastic orthotic braces.

    To do this, the research will initially see 12 scoliosis children fitted and treated, along with 24 clubfoot cases. They will be monitored by clinicians for two to three years.

    Dechev said part of the grant funding will be kept on hand so people can step in and fit standard braces if the plastic ones start to go wrong.

    “It’s not just thrown over the wall to people,” he said. “There is a process of two to three years of follow-up to make sure everything is going well.”

    Grand Challenges Canada was started in 2010 as an independent, non-profit agency funded by Global Affairs Canada. Its mandate is to assist with new ideas in areas of women’s and children’s health in low or middle-income counties.

    Since it began, 470 ideas have received funding. Of those, 60 per cent arose from the developing countries themselves and 40 per cent arose in Canada. All Canadian ventures must partner with local people to qualify.

    Liam Brown, spokesman for Grand Challenges Canada, said 20 per cent of ideas funded so far have entered a phase where they are ready to scale up to a point where they will have a significant impact by 2030.

    That’s a rate significantly higher than similar venture-capital initiatives.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The Victoria Hand Project started using 3-D printers to build low-cost customized prosthetic hands.. see more

    Source: Vancouver Sun

    B.C. non-profit's affordable 3-D printed prosthetics in the running for $750,000 prize

    [Vote for them here!]

    A B.C. non-profit society that makes three dimensional printed prosthetics for amputees in developing countries is one of the finalists for a Google grant worth $750,000. 

    The Victoria Hand Project started using 3-D printers to build low-cost customized prosthetic hands less than three years ago. Since then, it has fitted 70 people in Nepal, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti, Cambodia and Egypt who would otherwise go without. The project operates out of a biomedical design lab at the University of Victoria.

    “If we win, we can expand into at least five new countries, and we can build hands for 750 people free of charge to them,” said Michael Peirone, a project designer and recent biomedical engineering grad. “Getting picked out of hundreds of projects in Canada, and by a company like Google, it’s pretty exciting.” 

    The prosthesis was designed in the 1990s by University of Victoria professor Dr. Nikolai Dechev when he was still a master’s student at the University of Toronto. It languished on a shelf for close to two decades because it was too expensive to produce. Then, in 2013, a mechanical engineering student named Josh Coutts came up with the idea of using 3-D printers to build the device. 

    The Victoria Hand Project partners with clinics in impoverished communities to set up a print centre with a 3-D printer, a 3-D scanner, and other supplies and equipment. It trains local technicians to use the machines, which print out a custom socket and prosthetic made of a bioplastic called PLA, or polylactic acid. The hand has an adaptive grasp and movable thumb and is activated by a shoulder harness. 

    The cost, which includes prosthetists and technicians, is about $300, a fraction of the usual $2,000 to $3,000 cost of a conventional prosthetic. Peirone, who has travelled to Ecuador and Nepal to set up the program, has witnessed first-hand the impact the prosthetics can have on people’s lives. 

    “In some countries, if people are missing a limb, they are ostracized from society or can’t get a job,” said Peirone. “After we give them a hand, they’re able to get a job. We have people using a pen and writing on a piece of paper again. 

    “When we work with patients and they say ‘thank you’ and their lives have changed, that’s what we do this for.” 

    The Victoria Hand Project is one of 10 finalists for the Google Impact Challenge, which will award $5 million to 10 non-profits. Judges will choose four organizations and the public will vote for one organization that will receive $750,000. Voting goes until March 28. The winners will be announced March 30 in Toronto. 

    [Vote for them here!]