Wheelchair User Amanda Boxtel With Paralysis Walks Again With a 3D Printed Exoskeleton

In 1992, Amanda Boxtel suffered a vicious skiing accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors said she would never walk again. She proved them wrong, with the help of the world’s first 3D printed exoskeleton that gives her the ability to climb out of her wheelchair and walk once again.

Amanda

The Ekso-Suit Amanda wears is fully bespoke. 3D Systems used data from a full body scan to print custom-tailored pieces that fit exactly to Amanda’s body. Mechanical components from EksoBionics provide the automation, allowing Amanda to safely use her legs and a pair of canes to walk around.

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3D scanning and printing technologies were crucial to making Amanda’s exoskeleton, which took roughly 3 months to complete.

According to Scott Summit, the senior director for functional design at 3D Systems, the partnership between the two companies was about coming up with a way to fit the exoskeleton to Boxtel’s body in such a way that it never had hard parts bumping into “bony prominences,” such as the knob on the wrist.

Such body parts “don’t want a hard surface touching them,” Summit explained. “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.

A closeup of the 3D printed exoskeleton. (Credit: 3D Systems)
A closeup of the 3D printed exoskeleton.
(Credit: 3D Systems)

One problem that the designers faced in this case was that a paralyzed person like Amanda often can’t know that bruising is happening because she can’t feel it. That’s dangerous, Summit said, because undetected bruises or abrasions can become infected.

“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.”

Since Amanda has no sensation in her legs, even tiny skin injuries can become dangerously infected before they’re found. A comfortable fit isn’t just a nicety, it’s a safety necessity.

This exoskeleton is the first to use 3D printing for an individualized fit, but it’s not Amanda’s first time using such technology: in 2010, she helped test an earlier exoskeleton design to help paralyzed patients walk again. Since then, she’s been active as one of ten EksoBionics test pilots involved in the design process.

With courageous folks like Amanda leading the way, the robot-assisted future is going to be phenomenal.

Source | Cnet