Sharjah: A team of young Emirati engineers at the Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) have achieved a new breakthrough in developing prosthetic limbs using 3D printing technology.
The 3D-printed prosthetics are superior to existing methods of prosthetics manufacturing and offer numerous benefits — they are lightweight and strong, comfortable and customisable; accurate and cost-effective; can be manufactured for a fraction of the price and ensures complete accuracy.
This new generation of prosthetic limbs promises to ease the transition of patients who have lost their limbs due to accidents, natural disasters, and wars as well as to people of determination. These new limbs can be customised by the needs of the patient through software and manufactured at an extraordinarily faster rate.
Abdulqader, a member of the research team at SRTIP said the breakthrough was achieved at SRTIP’s Sharjah Open Innovation Laboratory (SoiLAB), using Industrial grade3D printing technology and Artificial Intelligence-based software.
“This represents the largest leap in the field of prosthetic devices in the UAE and demonstrates the country’s capabilities as well as the emirate of Sharjah’s position as an incubator of innovations and scientific research on a global scale,” said Abdulqader. “We have conducted extensive research and development to ensure that the prosthetic leg is not only lightweight and strong, but also stylish, comfortable, and adaptable to the varying needs of users. Using state of the art Artificial Intelligence software, we were able to generate a unique design, one which is extremely light but durable, impossible to manufacture traditionally, as well as customisable to each user’s exact needs.”
The manufacture of prosthetics using 3D printing techniques has many benefits. It drastically reduces costs when compared to traditional methods. It enhances accuracy and customisation. It also allows production of more complex and precise parts. Furthermore, 3D-printed prosthetics can be manufactured at a much quicker pace.
Also, 3D printing reduces the margin of human error due to the high accuracy and professional finishing through these Industry grade machines. It helps the manufacturer of lightweight artificial limbs and allows quick adjustment of the limbs to suit individual needs.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that more than 40 million amputees live in developing countries, and most of them are victims of conflicts. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, only five per cent of them receive care in the form of prosthetics.
How SRTIP is making a difference
The new development is in line with SRTIP’s ground-breaking feats in 3D printing technology, which also covers areas such as dentures, bones, medical and surgical devices, and hearing aids.
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTIP, said, “This breakthrough by our young Emirati engineers reflects the emergence of the next generation of specialists and professionals in additive manufacturing and 3D technology. It is part of our integrated professional programme to spot and nurture young Emirati engineers and groom them to be leaders, skilled industrial entrepreneurs, and professional specialists of the future.”
“SoiLAB is the first incubation centre for start-ups and innovative businesses in Sharjah that allows the community of practitioners to exchange materials and learn new skills and focus on engaging participants in learning content, which includes schools and universities. The idea is to provide students, researchers and innovators with latest technologies and advanced machines, at a nominal cost, in addition to attracting international companies to conduct research.”
“The project of 3D printed limbs will address the problem of scarcity, cost and customisability of prosthetic limbs. In addition, the ease, speed and low costs can lead to a dramatic transformation in the way artificial limbs were produced so far. Finally, this technology is drastically cheaper than limbs made using traditional methods,” said Al Mahmoudi.
Nurturing Emirati talent
He pointed out that the feat achieved by the Emirati engineers reflects the success of SRTIP in nurturing Emirati talent. Last year, SRTIP celebrated the graduation of the second batch of young Emirati engineer trainees as part of the training and qualification programme for future industries and technologies, foremost of which is additive manufacturing. The programme was a great success, as participants were selected from various universities and colleges in the UAE with academic backgrounds and qualifications in engineering.