Protosthetics and c2renew Partner to Create 3D Printing Filament for Definitive Prosthetic Sockets
What makes 3D printing so interesting—and so downright fascinating—is that it allows individuals and companies of all sizes to create parts and objects that might not be possible at all otherwise. And although we have certainly seen a wide range of 3D printed prosthetics, often with accompanying and incredibly heartwarming stories, there is still much progress to be made in terms of accessibility and affordability for those in need around the globe.
Protosthetics and c2renew, both based in North Dakota, are paving the way for use of a proprietary new material for 3D printing definitive prosthetic sockets with strength and resolution not previously available. The filament will also be used for 3D printing orthotics, offering better comfort and quality of life to countless patients in the future.
Founders Josh Teigen and Cooper Bierscheid have been deeply committed to the wonders of 3D printing, ever since they walked away from other ‘dream jobs’ and went into business together creating Protosthetics. Beginning with a laundry room for a warehouse and then moving on up to a church basement in Minnesota, the founders have now moved their official headquarters to Fargo, ND. There, they are responsible for creating, making, and distributing 3D printed prosthetics and orthotics.
“Today, Protosthetics is pioneering not only the orthotics and prosthetics industry through cutting edge products and services, but also pushing the limits of additive manufacturing (3D printing) itself,” Teigen told 3DPrint.com.
With the 3D printed devices being created in-house, they are able to act as an extension of the clinics they supply. Partnering with c2renew also means that they can be much more involved in the materials end. A market leader in eco-friendly polymer and bio-composite manufacturing technology, c2renew uses proprietary formulations to meet a wide range of engineering specifications. They are also responsible for designing biocomposite material compounds from agriculture byproducts and recycled plastics, as well as offering engineering services to their customers for designing a range of plastic composites.
Protosthetics was so impressed with c2renew’s work in polymer and bio-composite manufacturing that they asked if they would be interested in partnering to create a new filament for 3D printing prosthetics and orthotics. Teigen says that because c2renew was an industry leader in quality and had a dedication to minimal material waste, the Protosthetics team thought they would fit right in with their own company values. An added bonus was in being able to work with another company nearby; in fact, they are just a few miles apart.
“Having a top-tier innovative company like c2renew right down the street is incredibly valuable to our business,” says Teigen. “This new material is something that the market has been wanting for a while, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with a company like c2renew to be the ones to deliver it to our customers.”
Although we have followed many different 3D printed innovations in both prosthetics and orthotics, it is rare that sockets are mentioned, though there is work being done.
“You commonly hear of two types of sockets: check and definitive. Check sockets are meant for temporary use while definitive sockets are meant for long-term use and require increased time to be spent in the research and development phases,” Teigen told 3DPrint.com.
As the two companies began working on the new filament, they knew that creating a material for 3D printing definitive sockets was their goal. Avoiding the more common base polymers, the two teams came together in creating a combination of industrial polymers and unique strengthening fibers. With this filament, they are making a material offering new properties that will improve and increase safety, usability, and quality of life for patients.
“Partnering with the team at Protosthetics to help advance the great work they do by introducing a new material is great opportunity. It is also really exciting for us to bring things full circle with Protosthetics, as Cooper was one of our first interns,” says Corey Kratcha, c2renew’s Co-Founder and CEO.
The partnership has been a ‘tremendous addition’ to Protosthetics in terms of their manufacturing and services, allowing them to produce high-quality end products for the clinics they currently supply.
“This partnership opens up new doors to possibilities to greatly enhance the role of the practitioners we serve and improve patient care. With this new material, Protosthetics will possess the full suite of capabilities to deliver fully 3D printed definitive sockets to the market. 3D printing is an ever-advancing industry, and the demand for new solutions, materials and applications continues to grow as well,” Cooper Bierscheid, Protosthetics Co-Founder and Primary Engineer, told 3DPrint.com.
“The collaboration of these two organizations allows for continued innovation and improved patient care. The ability to 3D print definitive sockets will help advance the field of orthotics and prosthetics even further, and ultimately improve the lives of patients and the practitioners that serve them.”
By Bridget Butler Millsaps
Printing Solutions for Patients
Fargo Manufacturing Facility Creates 3-D Printed Prosthetics, Orthotics
FARGO—The team at a new manufacturing facility here gets by with a little help from their friends Yao, Shaq, Larry, Wilt and Kareem.
That’s not the the interns starting later this week—it’s the NBA player nicknames given to customized 3-D printers that are much taller than standard units on the market.
Height is an important consideration for Protosthetics, a company that designs, makes and distributes devices ranging from waterproof leg prosthetics to orthotic pieces that help with comfort and movement.
Things like a transfemoral socket, which allows above-the-knee amputees to connect to artificial legs, can get too tall to build in a standard 3-D printer.
That’s why the growing startup that moved this spring into its new facility at 617 4th St. N. has printers solely dedicated to printing parts so it can build more Protosthetics Tallboy printers and keep up with demand for its custom prosthetics and orthotics.
Protosthetics will open its doors for an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 16.
Protosthetics got its start about 15 months ago, setting up in a small leased space in Barnesville, Minn., that it got after winning a grant.
It quickly outgrew that spot, and Chief Visionary Josh Teigen said the team knew they wanted to come to Fargo. After some searching with Kilbourne Group, they settled on this nearly 9,000-square-foot facility that formerly housed Welu Dental Laboratory.
Teigen, a Fargo native and graduate of the University of North Dakota’s School of Entrepreneurship, had a couple of businesses in the past. It was Protosthetics’ Chief Futurist, Cooper Bierscheid, who told him about the possibilities of using 3-D printers to make prosthetics.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s way cooler than what I’m doing now,’ ” Teigen said.
They joined forces and launched the company, hiring Chief Swiss Army Knife Derek Holt along the way.
Bierscheid, a native of Watertown, S.D., had a “dream job” offer after earning a manufacturing engineering degree from North Dakota State University, but he turned it down to start this new company.
“My goal has always been to invent products that help people,” he said.
Holt said he left his job at Integrity Windows because he could see the potential with Bierscheid and Teigen.
“Being here, I’m designing two new things today,” he said. “It’s fun and I have direct input.”
That includes making its own version of water legs, solving a problem for millions of Americans. Teigen said traditional prosthetic legs aren’t meant to be worn anywhere they can get wet or dirty, meaning amputees often have to use a shower chair or sit on the floor of the shower.
Their solution, the Amphibian Leg, can be made in around five hours once a scan of the patient is sent by a clinic. The custom devices are durable enough to wear around the beach or during sporting activities, though the primary use is making it easier to shower.
Water legs aren’t covered by health insurance and traditionally are quite expensive, while Protosthetics’ version can get to patients for $1,500 or less.
The team is hard at work these days building more custom printers and kiosks that house each printer. Their goal is to have 35 or so of these kiosks up and running by the end of the summer.
The business also plans to someday lease custom-built printing kiosks directly to clinics. The advantage, they say, is that clinics could print devices in-house, speeding up delivery to patients who need water legs or other products as soon as possible.
“When you think about our end user, mobility is their challenge,” Teigen said.
By Ryan Johnson