3D Systems, in collaboration with Ekso Bionics, has created a 3D-printed robotic exoskeleton that has restored the ability to walk in a woman paralyzed from the waist down. The Ekso-Suit was trialled and demonstrated by Amanda Boxtel, who was told by her doctor that she'd never walk again after a skiing accident in 1992.
Robotic exoskeletons were once the stuff of sci-fi movies, bestowing their wearers with superhuman strength and speed. Though organizations like DARPA and Lockheed have been developing exoskeletons with human-enhancing military uses in mind, the technology has also proved of great benefit to the medical profession.
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ReWalk has provided powered exoskeletons for individuals with spinal cord injuries since 2011 and the EU-funded Mindwalker project has developed a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton. In 2012, a Stratasys Dimension 3D printer was used to create a 3D-printed robotic exoskeleton that enabled a young girl to move freely for the first time.
Boxtel's Ekso-Suit was created by first scanning her thighs, shins and spine to create a model from which the basic personalized exoskeleton could be 3D-printed. Ekso Bionics then provided mechanical actuators and controls that were integrated with the printed components. Boxtel demonstrated the hybrid exoskeleton at a Singularity University event in Budapest, Hungary.
"This project represents the triumph of human creativity and technology that converged to restore my authentic functionality in a stunningly beautiful, fashionable and organic design," says Boxtel.
The video below shows the Ekso-Suit in action.
Source: 3D Systems