3D printing of prosthetic limbs begins at CoRSU

A team of 10 members from Canada are at CoRSU Hospital from January 19-23, setting up three 3D printers, training local orthopaedic technicians, and test fitting young patients with new 3D-printed prosthetic sockets.

The goal is to equip CoRSU’s orthopaedic workshop to deliver better-fitting prosthetic legs to children who need them – faster and at less cost.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that there are a quarter million children with disabilities in Uganda.

“Many children have lost limbs due to severe bone infections, polio, injury and violent conflict. Others have been born with defects or malformations. Thousands of these children are going without the prostheses they need, because there aren’t enough orthopaedic technicians to make and fit the prostheses,” reports Mitch Wilkie, Director of International Programs for cbm Canada, and leader of the project team. “The result is children who are unable to walk to school, or run and play with their friends. These kids live with greatly limited opportunity and too often with stigma and discrimination.”

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that the current shortfall of prosthetic technicians in the developing world is 40,000 and that they can only train up about another 18,000 if they spent another 50 years doing so,” according to Matt Ratto, professor at the faculty of information at the University of Toronto, who is a member of the team at CoRSU this week.

In order to solve this problem, cbm Canada is partnering with University of Toronto and Ratto’s team, using consumer-grade 3D printing and scanning technology to reduce the need for technicians in developing countries, by making it easier to make parts for prosthetic limbs.

The entire process requires approximately 6 hours and less than $12,000 in equipment; the cornstarch-based PLA plastic to make a socket costs about $3.

Currently in Uganda, producing a socket involves 5 to 6 labour-intensive days and the use of plaster of Paris moulds dried in the sun, causing often ill-fitting sockets, the discomfort of which discourages their use.

The project team will experiment with a variety of plastic materials and techniques for printing the wall of the socket for greatest strength and durability with the least weight and material. They will also evaluate the potential use of Canadian custom-made 3D printers that may be better purposed for this application in the developing world.

Most importantly, the team will incorporate good development principles by ensuring disability inclusion, gender equity and environmental sustainability within the project’s scope.

cbm is a leading international Christian development organization committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world. The organization helps more than 24 million people annually, supporting over 600 life-changing projects (like CoRSU), serving those with disabilities in more than 70 developing countries.

For more information, see www.cbmcanada.org, www.corsu.or.ug

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