I noticed what might become a very interesting project in the future: ThirdMesh.
The project appears to be attempting to develop a system for creating inexpensive 3D printed prosthetics for use in emerging countries that otherwise would not be able to afford such medical devices.
According to statistics on ThirdMesh’s wiki, they say that many very common prosthetics carry quite high costs:
These costs are certainly within the range of affordability for someone who has sufficient medical insurance or a government medical program, but in many emerging countries this is not the case.
Even worse, for children these prosthetics must be renewed into larger versions as the child physically grows. This implies these costs are multiplied, perhaps several times.
ThirdMesh’s reaction to this is something they call the “Custom Able Arm”, described as follows:
- Development of 3D printed assistive devices for the benefit of all by developing and improving the devices that are on offer.
- Accessibility-Easily Available Durable, comfortable, and easy for patients to use and maintain and decreasing the disability-adjusted life year
- Affordability-Cost effective, modern and consistent with international standards with Easy for technicians to learn, use, and repair
- Availability- Standardized but compatible with the climate in different world regions
- These devices have a whole range of cutting-edge technology and innovative ideas form healthcare professionals crammed into them that they are comfortable and can be used for activities.
They also mention the use of 3D scanning and AI design, but it seems to me that these features would not be absolutely necessary to address the problem, at least in initial versions.
What does ThirdMesh do? It appears they want to be a “digital supply chain” that is able to provide an end-to-end lifecycle for this type of 3D printed product.
How much has been developed? While I could not identify any images of completed 3D printed prosthetics, they do have a form in which you can provide some rudimentary measurements. These could be used with geometric arm models to generate 3D designs that match the patient very well. Of course, this assumes they have one good arm from which to take measurements.
From the looks of their site, it seems this is a very early startup. They may or may not yet not have the technology running, but it seems like a good idea. However, I have no idea how they would find a means to fund the operation, other than grants from governments or charitable institutions.