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Toronto professor turns to 3-D printing to help Ugandan child amputees

Dr. Matt Ratto is a professor at the University of Toronto.

PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

A University of Toronto professor has teamed up with an international charity and a hospital in Uganda to try to help child amputees in that country using 3-D printing technology.

Matt Ratto and the Critical Making Lab were approached by Christian Blind Mission to help solve the problem of a lack of access to prosthetics for children.

The project, which is focusing on children with amputations below the knee, is still in its research phase, but has made prototypes.

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When the child enters the hospital, a 3-D scan of the residual limb is made and used to generate a 3-D model.

Using the design software, a technician digitally wraps the socket material around the digital residual limb, and it is then printed to be used by the child.

Ratto says the process may be available in Uganda as early as next year, and estimates that printing a socket for a child would take 10 hours, rather than to up to two days using a manual process.

"The model is printed on a hobbyist level 3-D printer. A key part of this is to keep cost down," said Ratto.

"We aren't doing this using half-million-dollar 3-D printers, we are using cheap printers because we want to be able to deploy this in Africa and other developing-world countries."

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