Paralyzed Skier Walks Again With Help From 3D-Printed Exoskeleton

| 23 Feb 2014 15:28

3D Systems and EksoBionics have created an exoskeleton suit that helped a paralyzed skier walk again for the first time since 1992.

In news that makes me excited at the future of robotics being used in the medical field, tech companies 3D Systems and EksoBionics have created an exoskeleton that allowed Amanda Boxtel to walk again since 1992. Boxtel, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a skiing accident in '92, was said she'd never walk again by her doctors. But as you can see from the video, she proved them wrong. The exoskeleton featured is the first of its kind, and was custom-built for the former skier. Designers from 3D Systems scanned her full body, digitizing the contours of her spine, thighs, and shins to mold or 3D print the robotic exoskeleton suited to her frame. Once that's done, 3D Systems then collaborated with EksoBionics for the mechanical parts and controls and the finished product is what 3D Systems calls the first-ever "bespoke" exoskeleton.

Scott Summit, senior director for functional design at 3D Systems states, "We had to be very specific with the design so we never had 3D-printed parts bumping into bony prominences, which can lead to abrasions" and bruising. For Boxtel, bruising was a dilemma designers needed to overcome since a paralyzed person won't often know that bruising is happening because she won't be able to feel it, which is dangerous since undetected abrasions and bruises can lead to infections. "So we had to be very careful with creating geometry that would dodge the parts of the body that it had to dodge...[designing] parts that wouldn't impede circulation or cause bruising," Summit adds.

The process of creating the 3D-printed exoskeleton took three months to complete and is designed to attach to the body loosely with velcro straps for an adjustable fit."When the robot becomes the enabling device to take every step for the rest of your life, the connection between the body and the robot is everything. So our goal is to enhance the quality of that connection so the robot becomes more symbiotic," Summit states, pertaining to Boxtel and her robotic suit.

Needless to say, hearing news like these makes me excited at what other robotic advancements can be made to help people, and makes me think my foolish dreams of becoming RoboCop is just within reach -- minus the painful body mutilations and dismemberment, of course.

Source: CNET

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