YOKOHAMA-BASED firm SHC Design Co. Ltd., in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and local clinic Orthopaedie Frey Prosthesis Center, recently piloted the first 3-D printed prosthesis in the Philippines.
Impelled by a growing number of Filipinos suffering from diabetes whose condition has advanced to the point of amputation and other persons with disabilities (PWDs) without access to low-cost prosthesis, the 3-D printed prosthesis project is being piloted with eight patients in the country.
One of them, Ernesto Ludovice, 60, lost his leg to diabetes six years ago. He is now using a 3-D printed prosthesis and is already walking without crutches.
Traditional prostheses take three weeks to manufacture and cannot be used when swimming or bathing because of metal components, whereas 3-D printed versions can be manufactured in about 30 hours and are made of plastic filament. A traditional prosthesis can cost as much as P50,000 while a 3-D printed prosthesis costs about P10,000.
“3-D printing technology is changing many aspects of how people live in other parts of the world. In Japan, 3-D printed prosthesis is already being used and is now being explored for leisure and fashion such as manufacturing 3-D printed legs in free forms for high heeled shoes or beach sandals,” Yoko Kurata, chief advisor of the 3-D Printed Prosthesis Project of SHC and JICA, was quoted as saying in a release.
The project is under JICA’s SME Partnership Promotion scheme where Japanese companies are tapped to address development issues in partner countries like the Philippines.
“Hopefully, 3-D printing technology will address the challenges of PWDs and eventually other development areas like design and manufacturing in the Philippines,” said JICA Senior Representative Yuko Tanaka.
Already, a Japanese volunteer has introduced 3-D printing in a university in Bohol to help students and local manufacturers improve the design elements of their products.
SHC aims to train the staff of local clinic Orthopaedie Frey on 3-D printing technology and expand it to other communities in need.
In the Philippines, nearly 350,000 people need prosthetic legs and more than 90% cannot get one because of cost considerations and lack of specialists. According to a study made by the Nippon Foundation in 2010, more than 100,000 Filipinos whose disabilities prevent them from working could be integrated into the labor force if provided with artificial limbs.