3D printing helping amputees

  • Nicky Wagner
Disability Issues

Disability Issues Minister Nicky Wagner says the partnership between the New Zealand Artificial Limb Service (NZALS) and Victoria University, School of Design is making the most of 3D printing to improve the lives of amputees.

“As new technology becomes available, we need to ensure that we use it to our advantage and that is why students from Victoria University are working with the NZALS to explore new approaches to improve the lives of amputees through 3D printing,” Ms Wagner says.

“3D printing provides many qualities that have potential advantages over the traditional crafting of artificial limbs. This technology can be used to print shapes that would be extremely difficult to construct in a conventional manner, in time, we hope the 3D printing will provide stronger and lighter materials than used currently.

“3D printing can also enable the user to change the looks and style of the limb. This might mean an arm decorated with cartoons for a child, or a leg with holes and pockets for carrying a golf ball and tees. The options for this technology are limited only by the imagination.

“Recently, a Master’s student at the Victoria University School of Design built and tested a limb that allows an amputee not only to swim effectively, but also allows the wearer to walk out of the water on this limb after swimming.

“The limb makes it so much easier to go from the changing room to the pool and without needing to swap over to alternative fittings. Imagine how this one simple innovation allows an amputee to achieve a healthier and more active lifestyle.

“NZALS is currently funding tertiary students in their projects around ‘improved lives for amputees’ and provides them with access to patients and our own expertise. Students then gain the advantage of learning by solving real-world technical challenges and by helping amputees have a better quality of life.

“The partnership produces great results for the NZALS, Victoria University, and most importantly, the amputees themselves. I am really looking forward to seeing the results of future projects,” Ms Wagner says.