Posted on March 27, 2018 by staff

Students create £5 prosthetic limb thanks to 3D tech


Engineering students from Northumberland College have created a 3D-printed prosthetic limb thanks to revolutionary 3D technology.

HND Mechanical Engineering Students are working with Enabling the Future, a global network of volunteers that work with organisations worldwide using 3D printing technology, to create prosthetic limbs for young amputees in third world countries.

The limb was made of PLA Polylactic acid, a biodegradable plastic has cost £5 to manufacture, including the cost of materials and power.

“This excellent project highlights all of our rapid prototyping resources and the positive impact of new technologies,” said Gordon Crombie, Northumberland College’s STEM centre manager.

“As children grow they need larger prosthetics, which becomes expensive due to technology limitations in developing countries, however for us, it costs just £5 and a little time.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are around 30 million people who require prosthetic limbs, braces or other mobility devices, yet less than 20 per cent have them.

The college is now at the stage of submitting the printed prototype for approval to Enabling the Future to ensure the limb meets requirements. Once approved or any changes are made, this limb is destined for a child in need in Africa.

Richard Furlonger, a 21-year-old Northumberland College HNC Engineering student, said: “I’m so proud to be a part of this project. It has improved our design and manufacturing skills. It is also an opportunity to change lives for the better.

“Once our prototype has approval we hope to build 35 limbs initially, with each limb individual to each recipient depending on size, design and capability.”

Northumberland College’s £2.5m state-of-the-art STEM Centre at its Ashington campus, which opened in September 2017, is equipped with the latest advanced industry.

This includes a glass 10,000 clean room, digital 3D imagery equipment, nanotechnology, microscopes, specialist chemicals and fab labs where budding product designers and entrepreneurs can access the latest in digital fabrication equipment for prototyping.