July 16, 2019

One Foot in the Future: 3D Printed Prostheses

Livity Technologies is Using LulzBot 3D Printers to Enrich Lives

“The amputees are always surprised to hear that this is a 3D printed foot that has flexibility, is robust. As an engineer and as a human being, I enjoy that process, to be able to provide technology or tools to someone that will enrich their lives."

Patrice Johnson, Livity Technologies CTO

When amputees in Jamaica found themselves unable to obtain prostheses due to lack of funding and materials, Livity Technologies CTO Patrice Johnson rose to the challenge. Specializing in prosthetics and exoskeletal orthoses, Livity Technologies is using LulzBot TAZ Workhorse 3D Printers to print prosthetic feet.

3D Printed Protyotype Prosthesis

With a demand to produce the prostheses locally, Johnson gathered feedback from the amputees; Jamaicans from all walks of life who would not be slowed down. “They wanted to be able to walk up hillsides, they wanted to walk on uneven terrain in environments like a riverbed, they wanted to be able to go to the beach with it, and they wanted to be able to, at times, run,” said Johnson.

The LulzBot TAZ Workhorse soon became a critical tool for Johnson, who praised it for its ability to produce not only prototypes in PLA, but beta and final prostheses in high-strength carbon fiber nylons and flexible TPU filaments. “We have all of this capability in one machine that fits on the desk in my lab,” Johnson said, also adding that he appreciated being able to print entirely new designs in just a few days. 

Though many of the amputees were familiar with the concept of additive manufacturing, wearing a functional 3D printed device created a “sense of excitement, like living in the future,” Johnson described. “I appreciate seeing that spark in somebody’s eye.”