3D printed prosthetics have proven to be popular in both the United States and
the UK, they are still slowly picking up in other countries where the use of 3D
printing is still in a relatively young stage – particularly in Eastern
countries including China. Clenching
his fist as he strikes an action pose, a six-year-old boy from central China,
who lost half a hand in a traffic accident, has become one of the first
patients in the country to don a 3D printed limb.
a country where a medical bill is often more deadly than sickness itself,
technology is bringing a change to the less fortunate families. The 3D hand
costs a hundred times less than a typical prosthetic limb. The
youngster, known as Xiao Cheng, was thrilled to use his robotic hand for the
first time after a hospital gave it to him as a gift for the Children’s Day,
reported People’s Daily Online.
credit: Exclusivepix Media
of the nature of Cheng’s injury – he had to have a part of his hand amputated
and thus, lost most of the feeling in the rest of hand – any sort of a
replacement would have cost much more than his family was capable of affording;
both of Cheng’s parents have moved to larger cities to find work while Cheng is
cared for by his elderly grandma who farms every day to support the
hearing about Cheng’s story, doctors at the Union Hospital in Wuhan – a city
130 miles away from Cheng’s village – decided to help. Using their expertise and 3D printers, the
doctor’s created a prosthetic hand for Cheng that took just seven hours to
complete. Upon receiving the prosthetic hand this past week, Cheng was so
overjoyed that he decided to name the hand his ‘Transformers’ hand inspired by
the action film that features robots that can transform into different objects.
that a traditional prosthetic limb can cost around 100,000 Yuan (£10,500 /
$16,000) – or twice the annual salary for the average Chinese worker in rural
areas – it becomes clear just how much of a gift receiving the hand was for
Cheng and his family; the 3D printed prosthetic cost just 1,000 Yuan to
manufacture. As if the story couldn’t be
any more heartwarming, the hospital even promised to regularly replace the hand
until Cheng reaches adulthood.
Xu Guisheng and a few partners have established a team that aids in creating
custom 3D printed prosthetics for patients of all types. “A medical
revolution caused by 3D printing has begun,” said Wang Chentao, a professor of
Digital Medical Engineering Research at Shanghai Jiaotong University.
to traditional manufacturing methods, the medical community has an innate
kindness for 3D printing.” According
to Xu Guisheng, he and the team are prepared to provide 3D printed limbs to the
public as a community service project and will be giving them out for free.
Additionally, he has been in talks with the country’s various welfare
organizations to help pay for any costs for future 3D printed limbs that are
created for those that are in-need, such as low-income and disabled patients. “In
the medical field, 3D printing technology has a very big market space.” Xu
Guisheng added. “We have applied for several patents using 3D printing in
the medical field. Artificial limbs are just one of the areas we applied and we
are not relying on them to make a profit.”
potential hurdle that Guisheng sees is regulations surrounding Chinese medical
devices; according to current Chinese medical regulations, the implantation of
human organs or tissues has a difficult approval process. “In accordance
with existing regulations, the use of 3D printed prosthetic limbs is
questionable because the production technologies are different than traditional
manufacturing techniques.” Xu Guisheng said.
Wang Chunren, a food and drug inspection researcher noted that the use of 3D
printing material for medical use is different than what the medical
regulations are referring to; because there are no mechanical properties or
internal structure, the standards do not apply. With the rise of 3D printing in
general in China, it might not be too long from now where we see an entire 3D
printed prosthetic revolution similar to what we’ve seen in the United States
and the United Kingdom.