3D Printed Exoskeleton Helps Paralyzed Woman Walk Again

One of my first professional writing gigs was to build a short index of emerging technologies, specifically technology on the bleeding edge. During my research, one of the bits of interesting tech I found was work on exoskeletons, both for the handicapped, and for increased strength. That particular piece of tech was the only one my editor didn’t believe. I’m pretty sure he accused me of cribbing from Aliens. Maybe I’ll forward him this article.

3D Systems and Ekso Bionics have come together to create what 3DS is calling the first bespoke exoskeleton. The exoskeleton was built using body scans performed by 3DS and the robotics technological know-how of Ekso Bionics. The result has allowed Amanda Boxtel, paralyzed in a skiing accident, to walk again for the first time in 22 years.

This customized exoskeleton from Ekso Bionics and 3DS offer new mobility options for the handicapped. Courtesy of 3D Systems.

On February 27, 1992, Boxtel fell while skiing in Aspen, CO and was paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors told her she would never walk again. Wheelchair-assisted since that time, Boxtel sought a new manner of mobility, and Ekso Bionics’ exoskeleton gave her that opportunity.

3D Systems scanned Boxtel’s lower body, including her spine, thighs and shins, building a digital model for the exoskeleton to be built around. Particular care was taken with areas where hard plastic might rub against bone, causing bruising Boxtel couldn’t feel, but which could cause more serious health problems if left unchecked. Mechanical actuators and controls, manufactured and provided by Ekso Bionics, were then integrated with the 3D printed components to complete the bespoke exoskeleton.

“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,” said Boxtel. “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.”

The entire design and production process took about three months to complete. That seems amazing when you really stop to think about it. Three months to offer a woman paralyzed for 22 years the chance to walk again.

Below you’ll find a video about Boxtel’s Ekso-Suit.

Source: 3D Systems

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