Lamborghini, best known for high performance cars is teaming up with the Houston Methodist Research Institute to study using composite materials, similar to that used in its supercars, for the development of better prosthetics. The project will be conducted by Dr Mauro Ferrari, the Institute’s president and CEO whose research will collaborate with five other collaborating institutes in Italy.
The partnership will study biocompatibility issues in using these materials for implants or devices placed under the skin. The hope is that they are lighter and will last longer than existing prosthetics, as well as being “better tolerated by the human body, and more resistant over time than those currently used,” according to Lamborghini.
Carbon fibre composite is used by companies like Lamborghini because of its light weight and strength. For a car, these are key to its performance and handling. More recently, it has also been employed by BMW and Toyota for use in their hybrid models since saving weight is a great way to improve fuel consumption.
“The next revolution in medicine,” as “The Guardian” describes it, is 3D printing prosthetics. “Leading prosthetics can cost up to $100,000,” the Open Hand Project (OHP) says. “By using emerging technologies like 3D printing, we can cut that down to a fraction of the cost which means that these devices can reach a far broader audience!”
The OHP hopes to make this more accessible to the public. Its website provides downloadable files that can be 3D printed, making them far more affordable. It also allows individual investors and designers to offer their creations to those in need.
As many as 30 million people worldwide are in need of prosthetics, many of them living in developing countries. However, as many as eight in ten do not have the devices they require. The WHO says that there is a shortage of 40,000 trained prosthetists in poorer countries. There is also the cost associated with travelling long distances for treatment, including assessing their needs and producing and fitting prosthetics. The treatment alone can take days and the result is far from perfect.
“Slowly but surely,” “The Guardian’s” Ian Birrell wrote, “3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been revolutionising aspects of medicine since the start of the century, just as it has had an impact on so many other industries.”
This would also be particularly great for children, as a new, larger one can be 3D printed as they grow.