One-of-a-kind 3D-printed prosthetics bring beauty to amputees

A San Francisco company is creating stylish, 3D-printed covers to jazz up prosthetic limbs.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

(Credit: Bespoke Innovations)

A San Francisco company is creating stylish, 3D-printed covers to jazz up prosthetic limbs.

As we have seen before with the work of Sophia de Oliveira Barata, simply adding a personal touch to a prosthetic limb can go a long way to helping amputees find confidence.

A company in San Francisco called Bespoke Innovations has found a different way to do that — by creating custom 3D-printed covers ("fairings") for existing prosthetics. Founded in 2009 by an industrial designer and an orthopaedic surgeon, the company's mission is to help those with limb loss feel more comfortable in their bodies.

"Each of our bodies is unique, as are our tastes and styles," the website states. "Humans are anything but one-size-fits-all, and we want to recognise that fact. We achieve this by creating products that allow our clients to personalise their prosthetic legs. Our hope is to enable our clients to emotionally connect with their prosthetic limbs, and wear them confidently as a form of personal expression."

(Credit: Bespoke Innovations)

The Fairings are created using a 3D scan as a base. First, the team scans the sound limb in order to replicate the shape as closely as possible. Then, the existing prosthetic is scanned so that Bespoke Innovations can custom build to fit around it.

Then the user can help design the Fairing. The customer can choose from a variety of patterns, tattoos, graphics, materials, finishes and templates in order to personalise it as much as they like to reflect their own personal style.

Finally, the covering is built using 3D printing, a process that allows for a lot of flexibility. The resulting product — costing around US$4000 to US$6000, depending on the complexity of the design — is durable and lightweight.

And the customers love it. Chad, who lost a leg to synovial sarcoma, said, "I love my Fairing because it's a conversation piece. When I go out, people will tend to ask me about my leg."

Deborah, who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, received her Fairing in 2010. "Instead of trying to blend in and be like everyone else, now I really go out of my way to show off my leg," she said. "I'm coming back more to myself and being creative with my outfits. I try to match the leg to my outfit. With the chrome leg, you can do a lot of cool '80s things, like matching it to leather jackets with grommets and leather boots with accents. It's taken me all of this time to get my confidence back and to be a whole person again."

Via inhabitat.com