Application of multi-material 3D printing for improved functionality and modularity of open source lowcost prosthetics: A case study

Sachin Bijadi, Erik de Bruijn, Erik Tempelman, Jos Oberdorf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Low-cost 3D desktop printing, although still in its infancy, is rapidly maturing, with a wide range of applications. With its ease of production and affordability, it has led to development of a global maker culture, with the design and manufacture of artefacts by individuals as a collaborative & creative hobbyist practice. This has enabled mass customization of goods with the potential to disrupt conventional manufacturing, giving more people access to traditionally expensive products like prosthetics and medical devices [1], as is the case with e-NABLE, a global community providing open source prosthetics for people with upper limb deficiencies. However one of the major barriers to proliferation of 3D printing as a major manufacturing method is the limitation of compatible materials for use with the technology [2]. This places constraints on the design approach, as well as the complexity & functionality of artefacts that can be produced with 3D printing as compared to traditional manufacturing methods. As a result, devices like the e-NABLE Raptor Reloaded prosthetic hand, which is designed specifically to be produced via a single extruder FDM desktop 3D printer, have limited functionality as compared to conventional prosthetics, leading to low active use and prosthesis abandonment [3]. However, with the advent of multi-material desktop 3D printing, and increasing availability of a broader range of compatible materials (of varying characteristics) [2], there is scope for improving capabilities of low-cost prosthetics through the creation of more sophisticated multi-material functional integrated devices. This work documents the exploration of potential applications of multi-material 3D printing to improve production, capabilities and usability of low-cost open source prosthetics. Various material combinations were initially studied and functional enhancements for current 3D printed prosthetics were prototyped using key material combinations identified. Further, a user-centered design approach was utilized to develop a novel multi-material anthropomorphic prosthetic hand ‘ex_machina’ based on a modular platform architecture, to demonstrate the scope for reduced build complexity and improved dexterity & functional customization enabled by dual extrusion FDM desktop 3D printing. A full prototype was built & tested with a lead user, and results analyzed to determine scope for optimization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2017 Design of Medical Devices Conference
PublisherAmerican Society of Mechanical Engineers
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-7918-4067-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventFrontiers in Biomedical Devices, BIOMED: 2017 Design of Medical Devices Conference - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: 10 Apr 201713 Apr 2017


ConferenceFrontiers in Biomedical Devices, BIOMED
Abbreviated titleDMD 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States


Dive into the research topics of 'Application of multi-material 3D printing for improved functionality and modularity of open source lowcost prosthetics: A case study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this