M3 Features

Transforming lives: 3D-printed prosthetics

September 13, 2015

Three-dimensional printing is a cheaper and faster process of making a physical object from a digital model. Now a niche team in Kolkata is ready to print its first prosthetic arm.

Global Shapers Community, an initiative of World Economic Forum, has 5,165 members across 452 cities worldwide. Its members are expected to be exceptional in their potential, achievements and enthusiasm to contribute to society.

The Kolkata chapter has 16 members, most of whom are young entrepreneurs. It is one of the nine hubs, as the individual city-based groups are called, whose project has been awarded the Abraaj Growth Markets Grant. The nine projects were selected from among 178 applications received across six regions globally.

Abraaj Group has partnered with Global Shapers to support projects which resolve critical challenges in growth markets. The parameters for selection are quality, efficiency, sustainability, scale of impact, consistency of measurement, and replica design. Abraaj’s grant for this runs into several thousand dollars.

The Kolkata team’s project, titled ‘From Disability to “En-ability” ’, involves manufacturing myoelectric-controlled prosthetic limbs. ‘Myoelectric-controlled’ implies using the electrical properties of muscle tissues, by amplifying the impulses, to control the artificial limbs, thus bringing in a naturalness to the movements.  

Together with technology vendors, government bodies, academia and NGOs, the goal is to develop, refine and roll out an initial model of the customised 3D-printed prosthetic limb. The prototype must be scalable and replicable to suit all types of movement disabilities, since no one size fits all. Artificial limbs will be distributed to at least 20 women and children in rural and semi urban areas adjoining the city of Kolkata, thus enabling them to regain mobility, independence and dignity in their daily lives. The first prototype has to be completed within four to five months of the project’s initiation.

3D printing is being adopted since using this technique is the cheapest and fastest way to create the prorotypes.

The Kolkata chapter of Global Shapers has put together a team of seven who are designing and developing the project in Bhubaneswar. For distribution, the team has identified partners in various cities.

Entrepreneur Aryata Agarwal Jhawar, curator of the Kolkata chapter, graduated from St Xavier's College, and did her MBA from Wharton Business School, USA. She sees this as an opportunity to transform the lives of the disadvantaged, disabled people around her.

Aryata said that she could consider herself successful when everyone who needs an arm gets it. Hence, the team intends to make the arm at one-fourth of its cost in the market.

The other eight projects granted the Abraaj Growth Markets Grant are – ‘Building Toilets in Girls’ Schools’ by the Indore team, ‘Business Skills Workshop’ by the Lagos (Nigeria) team, ‘Calle. Segura / Safe. Street’ project by the Puebla (Mexico) team, ‘Closing the gender gap in technology’ by the Rabat (Morocco) team, ‘Promoting Youth Employment’ by the Phnom Penh (Cambodia) team, ‘Revitalizing Heritage Craft’ by the Ankara (Turkey) team, ‘Solar Power in Laikipia’ by the Nairobi (Kenya) team, and ‘TREESIES’ by the Lima (Peru) team.

Feature image: Aryata Agarwal Jhawar; A 3D-printed myoelectric prosthesis (telegraphindia.com; medgadget.com)

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