Slideshow: Five ways 3D printing is revolutionizing medical technology, part three

A bionic suit developed by Ekso Bionics (Richmond, CA) is designed to help individuals with any amount of lower extremity weakness, including people with spinal cord injuries, to stand up and walk. The company recently partnered with 3D Systems to custom print components for an exoskeleton that enabled paralyzed skier Amanda Boxtel to walk again for the first time since injuring her spinal cord in a skiing accident 20 years ago.

A 3D scan of Boxtel's body was transformed into a 3D underlay that served as the basis for the 3D-printed parts. Engineers at 3D Systems produced a digital map of her body and created CAD models of new components for the shins, thighs, and spine, which integrate seamlessly with the complex mechanical parts on the exoskeleton. The parts incorporate complex patterns, such as muscle strands, with fluid contours. The striated pattern creates greater flexibility and ventilation channels, as well.

Following various design iterations, the final parts were 3D printed using a 3D Systems Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) machine, which was chosen specifically for its ability to create lightweight, highly durable parts.

To learn more about Ekso Bionics and its exoskeleton technology, read "This exoskeleton is made for walking, among other things."

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Norbert Sparrow



Exoskeletons printed to order

imec EEG headset




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