The makers’ can even be a new industrial revolution, but in this movement there is also room for products that aren’t strictly conventional. After all, a 3D printer can create almost anything. So, someone came up with the idea to use it to help people who have lost a leg and live in developing countries. The project is called Low Cost Prosthesis (LCP) and it aims to improve the quality of life with just 40 Euro.
Behind this initiative are the Dutch Institute for Sustainable Technology Waag Society and Fab Lab HONF in Jakarta, Indonesia. It all started in 2011 when the space dedicated to Indonesian makers was launched, wanting to embark on an ambitious project to build a prosthetic leg. That same year, they started testing using cheap materials readily available on site.
The first prototype is under construction in Amsterdam and involves orthopaedic surgeons, biomedical engineers and staff from the Fab Lab HONF. The objective is to build a prosthesis made with low technology components that can be repaired and replaced by the owner. For example, the section for tibia and fibula is made of bamboo: simple, flexible and lightweight. The joints, however, are made with 3D moulds that are easily replicated by anyone with access to a CNC milling machine.
In fact, the choice of low cost materials such as plastic and plant fibres is not only due to limited financial resources. As revealed from the preliminary study carried out by the Waag Society, if the prosthesis is made for a child it must be able to be easily changed every 6-12 months to adapt to the growing body. This way, people living with artificial replacements learn to take care of them on a daily basis.
Another key point of the LCP project concerns technology transfer. The prosthesis was designed for 40 Euro in Amsterdam, but that does not mean it has to physically get to Jakarta on an aeroplane. This makers’ revolution shows us that a 3D design can be transferred from one corner of the planet to another at the speed of light. Just get the right tools for your computer and you’re done.
Sharing and passing on this project with the countries in the developing world could be a good example of technological and cultural emancipation. Who visits Fab Lab in Jakarta and similar will have access to all the tools and the know-how needed to build a prosthesis, improve it and also share the new design.
It is anything but a quiet revolution.