Amputees design their own prosthetics


25,000 people are injured by landmines every year due to war, disease and traffic accidents, etc. and all these people are in need of functional prosthetics – prosthetics that until now have been a one-size-fits-all solution. By carefully measuring body movements and their angles, designer Scott Summit is thus able to develop amazingly cool custom limbs. They are called ‘Bespoke Fairings’ and bring a whole new dimension to prostheses – and more importantly, to the people needing them.

The word “disabled” is often associated with synonyms such as “immobilized” or “out of action”, among many other negative connotations. Bespoke Fairings, a groundbreaking customized prosthetic, aims to tackle the challenge of personal mobility for amputees whilst altering the perception of prostheses – by reshaping an awful daily ordeal of uncomfortable glances into an admiring gaze of pleasant surprise.

Industrial designer, Scott Summit, and orthopedic surgeon, Kenneth B. Trauner, founded the company Bespoke Innovations in 2009, with the mission to “bring more humanity to people who have congenital or traumatic limb loss”. The company sells “designer body parts” using advanced 3D printing to create customized prosthetic limb casings wrapped in “embroidered leather, shimmering metal, or whatever else someone might want” – even tattoos! All to the customer’s fancy.

Bespoke Fairings originated as a counterweight to most traditional prosthetics that are one-size-fits-all and focus pretty much only on replicating humanness as the aesthetic property. “It’s unfortunate that so many people have had a product that is such a major part of their lives that was so under-designed”, says co-founder Scott Summit. His Bespoke prosthetics are thus not only aesthetically pleasing, and go beyond personal statement. Thanks to 3D scanning of a hindered limb, the product takes into account each person’s individual ergonomic characteristics, making it more comfortable and maximizing the ease and natural feel of movement.

As Aimee Mullins, record-breaking Paralympics athlete, puts it during her TEDtalk, “a prosthetic limb doesn’t need to replace loss, it can stand as a symbol that the wearer has the power to create whatever they want to create in that space, so that the people who society once considered to be disabled, can now become architects of their own identities and can continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment.”

So, by combining cutting-edge computer aided design technology with creativity and personalization, Bespoke Fairings does just that – and at one tenth of the price of comparable artificial limbs made using traditional methods. “It costs $4,000 to $6,000 to print one of these legs, and it has features that aren’t even found in legs that cost $60,000 today,” Summit says. Granted, $4,000 to $6,000 is not a bargain, but it is an enormous step away from fearful attitudes, towards wearable sculptures amputees can be proud of. A great step in the right direction.

On another positive note, this affordable 3D-printing production method will hopefully empower those in developing countries someday soon as well, inspiring custom-fitted prosthetics that are even cheaper and hopefully, eventually, affordable and widely available to all, thus improving the quality of life for amputees and other prostheses. This kind of personalized mobility is true empowerment and control. Perhaps, finally in the direction to take the word “victim” out of the wearers’ vocabularies.

Great news!

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