Every year, Disney Accelerator picks 10 technological startups from around the world to assist with both capital and guidance — this year, one of the 10 startups selected was the company Open Bionics. Open Bionics is dedicated to making low cost prosthetic limbs for amputees using 3D printing. Most prosthetics are extremely expensive, and the company’s goal is to make them more accessible for everyone.
With Disney’s help, however, they’re able to reach out to a specific group: children.
Starting in 2016, there will be three Disney-themed prosthetic limb models available for children. One based off of Iron Man’s armor, one off of Elsa’s gloves and a Stars War one modelled after light sabers. Priced at only $500, these prosthetic limbs are can perform the same tasks as more expensive limbs and even have individual finger movements. Normally, such a prosthetic arm would go for about $3,000 at the lowest, with legs being even more expensive — that’s a massively drastic change in price, making these limbs much more affordable.
This is especially useful for children; kids are constantly growing and changing, and thus cannot keep the same prosthetic limb from childhood to adulthood. When each limb is that expensive, it sounds nigh-impossible to fund this inevitable growth — but put the price at $500, and it’s suddenly far more likely that families will be able to afford limbs for their children. Even for adults, the most expensive prosthetic limbs can usually only last three to five years. Being able to replace them with this much more affordable option will be such a boon.
When it comes to the Disney-themed prosthetics, though, Open Bionics is hoping to make it easier for the children. “Now kids can get excited about their prosthetics. They won’t have to do boring physical therapy, they’ll train to become heroes. They’re not just getting medical devices, they’re getting bionic hands inspired by their favorite characters,” boasts their website. It’s true — kids are far more likely to enjoy getting prosthetic limbs if they can have an Elsa arm, or an Iron Man leg. It’s even something for other kids to get jealous over.
With a production time of only 40 hours, a low price of only $500 and kid-themed models to make it easier for them, the only question remaining about Open Bionics’ limbs is how long they will last. More expensive limbs last for years, and it seems likely that Open Bionics’ ones will be the same — however, they haven’t existed long enough for there to be a real judge of that just yet. Even if they don’t last as long as the other limbs, it would still be the better option. After all, it would take buying six 3D-printed limbs to reach the amount that a single more expensive limb would cost at the absolute cheapest. Kind of a steal, overall.
Open Bionics is doing revolutionary work and is one of the many companies that is reaching out and showing the world what can be done for people with disabilities and 3D printers. Multiple stores are now creating braille dice for tabletop roleplay. A robotic exoskeleton was created for a toddler with inflexible and underdeveloped arms, allowing her to use her limbs to their full extent. A kettle was designed and created using 3D printing so that people with limbs can pour the liquids without burning themselves. And, now, Open Bionics.
3D printing is opening up a whole new world, and Disney and Open Bionics are some of the most promising companies involved in this. Their prosthetics are going to change everything — especially for kids.