This "skin" for a prosthetic is called "Skin," and it was designed by Kansas State University interior architecture & product design student August Atzenweiler. (Photo courtesy of Kansas State University.)

This “skin” for a prosthetic is called “Skin,” and it was designed by Kansas State University interior architecture & product design student August Atzenweiler. (Photo courtesy of Kansas State University.)

Kansas State University architecture and product design students are using 3D printing to help add personality and individuality to amputees’ prosthetics.

According to a news release from Kansas State University, Dustin Headley and students in his second-year undergraduate product design studio class worked with six amputees to design a cover or “skin” that could become part of their prosthetic.

Headley is an assistant professor of interior architecture & product design in the College of Architecture, Planning & Design, specializes in digital design, including 3D printing, and uses it in his product, furniture, and interior design courses, per the release.

“This project really was looking at things from an empathetic standpoint on how can we use design to actually make people’s lives better, and then executing that design to get something tangible,” he says in the release.

For the project, groups of four or five students were assigned to each client. The clients were interviewed by the students to find out how they feel about their prosthetics and what they wanted their “skins” to look like. Each client also had his or her intact leg scanned so the students could mirror that leg’s geometry in their “skin” designs for the prosthetic limbs, the release explains.

The interview process was an important lesson for the students, Headley notes in the release.

“They got to see that these people are not broken, which is, I think, a perception that society has,” Headley shares in the release. “These people are really powerful personalities and have a lot of energy to put out there. It was great working with all of them.”

To create and develop their visions for their clients, Headley helped the students learn new digital design techniques using a computer. They also had to consider how their designs would be manufactured and, perhaps even more important, how they could attach their “skins” or covers to the prosthetics in a way that was not invasive and would not impede their functionality, the release continues.

“It was a real problem that needed to have a real solution,” Headley says in the release. “One of the students came up with a connection that attaches to the prosthetic’s pylon and clamps the cover in pace. Since the connection is unobtrusive, it doesn’t stick out in the design and, best of all, doesn’t hamper any of the prosthetic’s functions.”

The students presented their designs to their clients, with each client getting to select the design best suited for him or her, per the release.

Among the clients was a mom with two children who is getting two “skins”: a durable one to wear for her outdoor activities and a more decorative “skin” for formal activities.

Another client was a double amputee who is a student in college and takes part in many physical activities. “He makes everybody who has legs embarrassed because he is so active,” Headley shares in the release. “He rock climbs, mountain bikes, wrestles, does jiujitsu.”

According to the release, Headley acted as engineer of the designs, taking them from concept to reality using 3D printing. The “skins” were made from flexible resins and plastics.

Along with providing people with the opportunity to personalize their prosthetic with their new “skins,” Headley notes in the release that the project showed students how design skills can be used to solve problems — and lead to new career possibilities as well.

“The design discipline is a generalist endeavor anyway,” Headley concludes in the release. “You are taking these disparate problems and issues and trying to create logical solutions. You have to select variables and find ways to engage.”

“That’s the skill set all of the students are getting trained for. It doesn’t need to be limited to making products that go to market or making architectural space. We can do way more,” he continues.

[Source(s): Kansas State University, Newswise]