February 21, 2014      

A keen skier who was left paralysed from the waist down after an accident can now walk again, thanks to the world’s first 3D printed hybrid robotic exoskeleton suit.

Three-dimensional printer makers 3D systems have been working with robotic exoskeleton maker Ekso Bionics to make a custom suit for test pilot Amanda Boxtel, who was paralysed in a fall on the slopes of Aspen, Colorado in 1992.

Despite being told that she would never walk again, using the Ekso-Suit, Boxtel was able to stand up and walk through Budapest, aided by crutches.

“After years of dreaming about it, I am deeply grateful and thrilled to be making history by walking tall in the first ever 3D printed Ekso-Suit, made specifically for me,” said Boxtel, who helped to present the suit at a Singularity University-hosted event in Budapest.

“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.”

The manufacturers used 3D scanning to digitise the contours of Boxtel’s thighs, shins and spine to create a personalised 3D base to print the suit from, while Ekso Bionics created the sophisticated mechanical actuators and controls for the suit.

Both 3D Systems and Ekso Bionics have a history in making health-related devices. Apart from making commercial and consumer 3D printers, 3D Systems also prints patient-specific devices to aid with preoperative surgery, such as surgical drill and saw guides, as well as dentistry and orthodontics.

Ekso Bionics was last week voted as one of the five start-ups “poised to change MedTech forever” by Medical Device & Diagonostic Industry Magazine.

Ekso Bionics has its own bioskeletal suit which has already enabled thousands of individuals suffering from any amount of lover extremity weakness to be able to stand up and walk, which has obvious benefits for patients recovering from strokes, spinal cord injuries and neurological conditions affecting gait.