Implementation of 3D printing technology in the field of prosthetics: Past, present, and future

Albert Manero, Peter Smith, John Sparkman, Matt Dombrowski, Dominique Courbin, Anna Kester, Isaac Womack, Albert Chi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


There is an interesting and long history of prostheses designed for those with upper-limb difference, and yet issues still persist that have not yet been solved. Prosthesis needs for children are particularly complex, due in part to their growth rates. Access to a device can have a significant impact on a child’s psychosocial development. Often, devices supporting both cosmetic form and user function are not accessible to children due to high costs, insurance policies, medical availability, and their perceived durability and complexity of control. These challenges have encouraged a grassroots effort globally to offer a viable solution for the millions of people living with limb difference around the world. The innovative application of 3D printing for customizable and user-specific hardware has led to open-source Do It Yourself “DIY” production of assistive devices, having an incredible impact globally for families with little recourse. This paper examines new research and development of prostheses by the maker community and nonprofit organizations, as well as a novel case study exploring the development of technology and the training methods available. These design efforts are discussed further in the context of the medical regulatory framework in the United States and highlight new associated clinical studies designed to measure the quality of life impact of such devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1641
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • 3D printing
  • Cooperative expression
  • Gamification
  • Prosthetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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