This isn’t your Grandparent’s Prosthesis

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Instead of making one product a million times over you can make one product for one person.

3-d printers have been around for some time now and have increased in popularity through the Industrial Design community as means to create fast and cheap, high quality and functioning prototypes. With products like Makerbot making the technology more accesible, entrepreneurs are looking with increased fervor for viable consumer applications of the technology.

Scott Summit, of Bespoke Innovations offers one solution “Instead of making one product a million times over you can make one product for one person”. Bespoke is the collaboration of an industrial designer and an orthopedic surgeon that offers one of a kind custom prosthetic limbs. Rather than build these tools from off the shelf prefabricated parts, Bespoke combines 3-D scanning and printing technology to understand the individual user’s needs and to build custom apparatus. Cheaper than traditional manufacturing, more local and generally a better fit, these tools don’t stop at a custom sizing. Metal plating, leather wrapping, and other post production modifications help create a personalized and genuine product.

While prosthetics is certainly one application of 3-D printing technology, the software still has a steep learning curve and, with the exception of the Makerbot, entry level printers are still pricey. We are not at the point of having individual makers in our kitchens circa Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age but the accesibility of custom products is here. How might this affect computer tower design or automobile design? The revived Volkswagon Beatle is an impressive step in custom design touting hundreds of options and thousands of combinations. That number increases exponentially when custom 3-D printed parts are introduced into the mix. What else is possible? How can this one-off mentality translate to interface design?

Source Article: New York Times


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David Farkas

David is an interaction(s) designer working in the online and mobile realm. He focuses on the relation between the digital and the physical. Usability, goal oriented design, and consistency are key.

One comment on this article

  1. Duann on

    Bespoke Innovations is definitely paving the way for using 3D printing to make customized, aesthetically refined prosthetic limbs and MakerBot is a box of pure awesome for the DIY types.

    The other angle that is really taking off is with online 3D printing services such as where anyone can upload a design to have it 3D printed in a wide range of high quality materials and have them sent direct to them.

    We are currently seeing over 13,000 items uploaded to Shapeways for 3D printing every month.

    People who do not yet have the skills to design their own items can customize a wide range of products, again to be 3D printed especially for them.

    The time is now.