Deloitte North West develops 3D-printed prosthetic limb

07 May 2019 3 min. read

An initiative developed by Deloitte’s North West office to provide 3D-printed limbs is being rolled out worldwide. The innovative line of prosthetics harness kinetic energy to enable the opening and closing of artificial fingers.

3D printing is touted as one of the most disruptive developments in manufacturing and beyond. Also known as additive manufacturing, the process uses a three-dimensional digital model to create a physical object by adding many thin layers of material in succession, subsequently lowering cost by cutting out waste.

The technology is already being applied to manufacture stock items, such as hip and knee implants, and bespoke patient-specific products, such as hearing aids, orthotic insoles for shoes, and personalised prosthetics. Success stories include Open Bionics, a UK-based producer of 3D prosthetic arms which in February 2019 secured a £4.6 million investment to take its business to the international market.

Deloitte North West develops 3D-printed prosthetic limb

Now, a Director from professional services giant Deloitte is being lauded for her utilisation of 3D technology to create a prosthetic hand for her niece. Stockport’s Phoebe Dyer, who is seven, was born with Dysmelia, resulting in her having no left hand. According to innovation news site, Claire Handby along with the Deloitte Digital team, created a fully functional prosthetic hand, with important creative input from Phoebe herself.

The innovative product of that process was a 3D-printed limb, which uses an open source design, being built by UK charity team UnLimbited. The pioneering technology harnesses kinetic energy from the elbow to enable the existing limb to close its artificial fingers.

The initial project has proved so successful that the initiative has now been rolled out to help people across Deloitte offices in London, Reading and South Africa, as well as receiving recognition from technology giant Dell, which has since set up its own 3D printing team in Texas in order to provide less expensive alternatives to the conventional false passive limbs provided by the American healthcare industry. At the same time, Dell has also invited Handby to present her and her team’s findings to a global audience, in the opening keynote at the Dell Technologies World conference in Las Vegas.

Commenting on the news, Handby said, “It’s uplifting to see that the technology we’ve pioneered to help Phoebe, in the North West is now making an impact that matters to more individuals across the world. 3D printing was predicted to play a vital part in the North West’s technology scene in Deloitte’s TMT predictions earlier this year, and the early success of using our bright minds and technology in helping those in need is testament to how crucial this technology will prove to be in the near future. We would expect to see more businesses – like Dell – begin to utilise this technology, and drive positive change in every facet of life.”