Just when you thought 3D printing couldn't get any more amazing, it proves you wrong. 3D printing is now giving paraplegics the power to regain the physical ability they have lost.
The subject here is a woman named Amanda Boxtel – who has spent the past 22 years of her life in the state of paralysis – but she can now stand, move and walk on her own, thanks to a custom-made exoskeleton.
But exoskeletons and other powered robotic devices have existed for quite a while now. What's new with Ms. Amanda's story? The thing to note here is that the effectiveness of exoskeletons depends a great deal on how well they fit in to the requirements of its users. Human bodies generally vary from one another in shape and size, which is why a generic model wouldn't be the answer to everyone's problems. This is where 3D printing comes into play.
In Amanda's case, 3D systems – the biggest 3D printing company out there – combined with Ekso Bionics to make for her the first ever hybrid robotic exoskeleton.
The production of the new hybrid device required thorough 3D scanning of Amanda's entire body – a process during which all the curves on her body were examined. Once the exoskeleton got 3D printed, Ekso came in with its bionics, making the device a perfect fit for her.
Things for Amanda may never be the way they used to be before the skiing accident of 1992, but 3D printing has made her life a lot better than before.
"After years of dreaming about it, I am deeply grateful and thrilled to be making history by walking tall in the first ever 3D printed Ekso-Suit, made specifically for me," she said."This project represents the triumph of human creativity and technology that converged to restore my authentic functionality in a stunningly beautiful, fashionable and organic design.”