3D Printed Ankle

A month or so ago I gave a small talk at a software event. I presented the fairly basic idea that 3D printing becomes more powerful when combined with software designed for 3D Printing. The presentation could basically be summed up like this:

 

The project we did in connection to this was to topologically design and print/manufacture an ankle for a tennis player. Weight was reduced by 18% with a very conservative approach. Later there was a small interview which was publicized here.

Working on this project and looking at the prosthetic foot and all its components, I was surprised to learn how rudimentary they are. I guess high priced prosthetic are one of the things we think have a lot more going for them but turn out to be rather simple. A rough estimate makes me think we could reduce the weight of the entire prosthetic by around 40-50% as well as increase certain biomechanical performance metrics like, comfort, usability, utility and certain economic metrics like cost and lead time by a factor of 3. People that are doing projects like these are fairly quiet but I suspect some people in the energy and medical industries have already figured this same thing out and this is driving the huge metal 3d printing system sales we are seeing in Q42017. I’d expect this trend to continue and even accelerate.