3D printed prosthetics for Ugandan schoolchildren


3D printed prosthetics get Ugandan schoolchildren back on their feet

Although we’ve heard numerous stories about how 3D printing has helped enable hundreds of those in need of prosthetic limbs, a majority of the cases have been located in the United States or the United Kingdom where 3D printers or 3D printing providers are becoming increasingly common and access to a 3D printer is getting easier than ever before.  While this is excellent news, there are still many world locations where affordable prosthetic devices – and even 3d printers in general – are needed and could be used perhaps even more than those located in more developed Western countries.

In the meantime – thankfully – various organizations and 3D printing providers have been picking up 3D printing jobs as needed to ensure that those who need the prosthetic devices the most are getting the proper care that they need.  More recently, the University of Toronto and charity Christian Blind Mission took it upon themselves to produce prostheses for a Ugandan schoolboy who had been in need of a prosthetic device for years.

The schoolboy, Jesse Ayebazibwe of Kisubi, Uganda, tragically had his right leg amputated after he was hit by a truck after walking home from school three years ago.  Since then, the nine-year-old has been maneuvering with the aid of crutches – however they have since made it difficult to play or move around.  “I liked playing like a normal kid before the accident,” he said.

Thanks to the support of a local orthopaedic technologist, Moses Kaweesa of the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services (CoRSU) in Uganda, Ayebazibwe was able to use an infrared scanner and some 3D modeling software to create a prosthetic solution for the young boy before shipping the files to Canada to be 3D printed.

“The process is quite short, that’s the beauty of the 3D printers,” said Kaweesa.  “Jesse was here yesterday, today he’s being fitted.”

While Ayebazibwe previously wore a traditional-style prosthesis last year, his new 3D printed prosthesis is among the first in a trial that could see more 3D printed prosthetic device across Uganda for others in need – thanks in no small part to the efforts of Kaweesa.

Currently, the entire country of Uganda has just 12 trained prosthetic technicians for over 250,000 children who have lost limbs, which are often due to fires or congenital diseases.  At $12,000, a portable solution consisting of a laptop, a 3d scanner and a 3d printer is not cheap – however when considering the impact that a portable prosthetic device system could have on over 200,000 children in need – in northern Uganda alone, many people have lost limbs due to decades of war where chopping off limbs was a common reality.

“There’s no support from the government for disabled people … we have a disability department and a minister for disabled people, but they don’t do anything,” said Kaweesa.  “You can travel with your laptop and scanner.”

Upon receiving his 3D printed prosthetic, Ayebazibwe was clearly ecstatic.  “(It) felt good, like my normal leg,” he said. “I can do anything now — run and play football.”

The boy’s 53-year old grandmother, Florence Akoth, looks after him, even carrying him the two kilometers to school after his leg was crushed and his life shattered. She too is thrilled.

“Now he’s liked at school, plays, does work, collects firewood and water,” said Akoth.


by Simon | Jun 3, 2015


3D printed an artificial mind?

Watch Out Mankind! The Future of 3D Printing might Propel Artificial Intelligence to the Next Level..



I’m an artificial-intelligence skeptic. My problem isn’t with the software, but the hardware. Current computer technologies may give us faster, lighter laptops, but AI needs more than the PC equivalent of go-faster stripes—it needs a revolution in how we build processors. Such a revolution may be just around the corner though. As I discuss in a new article in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the convergence of technologies such as 3-D printing, advanced processor architectures, and nanotechnology are opening up radical new possibilities in how we might construct brain-inspired computers in the future.

If what we think of as the human mind is the product of a biological machine (albeit a complex one), there is little to suggest that we won’t one day have the ability to emulate it. This is what’s driving artificial intelligence research and the emergence of computers like IBM’s Watson that are getting close to thinking like a person. Yet powerful as Watson is, current manufacturing techniques will never enable such technologies to become ubiquitous.

It’s a problem of dimensions.

Imagine drawing five points on a piece of paper and trying to join each point to every other, without any of the interconnecting lines touching. You can’t do it. A second piece of paper layered over the first helps make the connections. But the more points you add and the more connections there are, the harder it gets to connect every point to every other one.

It’s a simple illustration of how hard it is to replicate the physical structure of the human brain—a 3-D matrix of billions of neurons tied together by hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections. Conventional manufacturing techniques can get us partway there. For instance, companies like IBM are pushing the limits of conventional approaches using to create brain-like processing architectures. But like the points on the paper, the technology is still inherently two-dimensional, meaning that additional complexity comes with a massive price tag.

If brain-inspired processors are to become an everyday reality, we’ll need radically different manufacturing processes.

This is where 3D printing comes in. Complexity in 3-D printing is cheap. And, as the name makes clear, it’s in three dimensions. To illustrate how powerful this is, go back to the points on the paper problem, and imagine you can now place not five, but 5 million points, anywhere within a volume of space about the size of a gallon of milk. Now imagine every point being connected to every other, without any of the connections overlapping. The tangle of threads and points you’re visualizing will be incredibly complex. But it’s not totally beyond the realms of possibility.  Although the level of interconnectivity is far less in your skull, this type of massively interconnected structure is reminiscent of what is seen in the human brain.*

Now imagine that you could take the equivalent of a brain scan of this tangle of threads and points, one slice at a time, then feed each slice to a 3-D printer. What you’d get would be a physical model of a brain-inspired structure.

Of course, it would just be a model made out of plastic or metal. Transforming it into a working artificial brain would require reach of those points to be a functioning artificial neuron, and each of the connections to emulate biological axons and synapses.* The technology to achieve this doesn’t yet exist. But it isn’t that far away. For instance, Memristors, a new type of electronic component, are being explored as the basis of artificial neurons. If these could be 3D-printed, it may be possible to begin to construct simple three-dimensional brain-like computers.

Unfortunately, future 3D computer chips have a bigger problem that needs to be overcome. Processors generate heat. And high-performance processors generate a lot of it. In three dimensions, heat removal becomes one of the biggest barriers to developing brain-like processors.

Human brains have the same problem—a fever of just a few degrees can be life-threatening. Our bodies have evolved to handle this by removing excess heat through an intricate network of blood capillaries. Unfortunately, creating a similar heat management system using conventional manufacturing is incredibly challenging. Not so with 3D printing, though. Because complexity is cheap with 3D printing, a secondary fluid-based heat-management network would be relatively simple to add to a three-dimensional brain-inspired architecture.

Of course many more technological challenges to 3D printing an artificial mind remain, including the ability to 3D print functional components. Yet here, the field of nanotechnology is opening the door to achieving just this. The convergence between 3D printing and nanotechnology that will allow functional devices and processing architectures to be manufactured using multiple materials isn’t there yet. But it’s not inconceivable that, one day, my skepticism will prove to be unjustified, and anyone will be able to 3D print the modern day equivalent of Isaac Asimov’s positronic brain.

Correction, Dec. 15, 2014: This blog post originally misidentified axons as axions when discussing brain architecture. It also implied that, in the human brain, all neurons are connected to all others. Each of the roughly 100 billion neurons may be connected to as many as 10,000

by Andrew Maynard | DEC 11 2014 10:38 AM

First 3D printed laptop

Thanks to the massive support that it received on Indiegogo, it looks like we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more about 3D-printed laptops very soon! 🙂


With just 68 hours till the deadline, the world’s first 3D-printed Raspberry Pi laptop, Pi-Top, has already smashed its Indiegogo campaign target, racking up a whopping $129,000 (£81,000).

What makes Pi-Top stand out is that it fuses a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design and 3D printing — a combination that endows you with the prerequisite know-how to create your own hardware product, according to its creators.

The main aim of the project is to make “hardware as accessible as software,” so the brains behind this 3D-printed laptop want to make their product as beginner-friendly as possible.

With that in mind, the creators — a group of studentengineers from various UK universities — have ensured that anybody can make the kit in an evening.

Creativity is also key to the product as Pi-Top aims to provide a platform on which you can hone your computing skills and learn to code your own hardware. What’s more, as learning through gaming has become a big thing these days, Pi-Top wants its consumers to take part in that trend. The makers state on their Indiegogo page that, “a gamified learning experience will take you to a stage where you are designing your own components and products”.

While the Pi-Top boasts versatility through its customisable design, whereby you can 3D-print your own 5″ x 5″ case, the product’s not just about the appearance. The makers want you to “learn how to make and control home automation devices, robots, and consumer electronics,” and they’ve also toured the UK, imparting their technological skills to UK pupils.