In a new milestone in the field of 3D printing, a wheel chair bound woman is able to walk again with the help of a 3D printed Exoskeleton custom made for her body.
The year was 1992. Amanda Boxtel was paralyzed in her lower body due to a skiing accident. Doctors said she will never be able to walk again. Guess they were wrong, eh?
The exoskeleton was made by 3D systems and EksoBionics . It was custom made for Boxtel by 3D scanning her body, right down to the last wrinkle and then custom molding the suit for her. Combined with a set of mechanical actuators and controls, standard bionic tech by EksoBionics, the suit is the first ever exoskeleton.
So, effectively, Amanda is a walking talking cyborg. When cyborgs dominate the future, I guess we will look back at this moment as the pivotal moment in human history.
The exoskeleton had to be 3D printed because they had to take care of very minute details, like small bone extrusions in Amanda’s body. These bone extrusions can develop abrasions and as Amanda can’t feel them, the abrasions will become infected even before or if they are found. So the suit had to be made in such a way that it won’t injure those areas.
3D printing proved to be suitable for the job. Scott Summit, senior director for functional design at 3D Systems told CNET, “we had to be very specific with the design so we never had 3D-printed parts bumping into bony prominences, which can lead to abrasions.”
The partnership happened when 3D systems CEO Avi Reichenthal met Boxtel during a visit to EksoBionics. At that time, EksoBionics had a prototype exoskeleton for Amanda and she was one of the ten “Test Pilots” . However, the exoskeleton was not customized for each and every person, rather it was a one-size-may-fit-all type suit. As human bodies vary from person to person,, Avi saw potential in the suit and struck a deal with EksoBionics.
3D systems’ 3D scanning and 3D printing tech combined with EksoBionics bionic tech helped in making the world’s first fully working exoskeleton.
Summit says “When the robot becomes the enabling device to take every step for the rest of your life,” “the connection between the body and the robot is everything.” .
Well after a few advances in exoskeleton technology, a cyborg future is not far off!