The medical profession has revolutionized 3D printing

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Leakhena Laing was a happy teenager who enjoyed climbing trees and playing football with friends. This all came to an end when the vehicle that she was traveling in flipped over trapping her right leg. Her limb was amputated and life as she knew it came to an end.

“It was difficult to even get a glass of water. I felt hopeless, very sad and embarrassed to be around other people,” says Laing, who was forced to abandon school after the accident nearly four years ago.

After two years in crutches; Laing received a below-knee (transtibial) prosthetic plaster limb which greatly improved her quality of life despite the fact she was required to travel nearly 30 miles away from her home, to a clinic in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, on a regular basis in order to be reffited.

Laing is currently participating in a ground-breaking trial by the Canadian non-profit social enterprise Nia Technologies. Their goal is to produce high quality mobility devices for children and young people faster than the conventional plaster cast method by using a 3D printer along with other 3D technology.

As per the World Health Organization; there are approximately 30 million people in need of prosthetic limbs worldwide who have no access. 3D scanning and printing may be able to help bring hope to these individuals.

“Our project leap frogs current developed world fabrication techniques by using 3D printing to produce devices that are actually being used by patients,” says Dr Matt Ratto, Nia’s chief science officer. In the trial that 60 Cambodian children and young people, including Laing, are participating in, Nia is testing “3D PrintAbility”, which combines scanning, modelling and printing technologies to produce two types of mobility devices: transtibial (below-the-knee) sockets and ankle foot orthoses (AFOs or leg braces).

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