Imagine being a child who needs a prosthetic limb in a world where the only ones available are adult-sized or made of wood. That was a reality for Emma, a little girl in Germany who was born without her left foot.
Emma’s family turned to Mecuris, a Munich- based startup, to help. The company is a pioneer in platform economics and digitalization in medtech, specializing in custom-made prostheses and orthoses designed with scalable 3D computer models and a 3D-printing platform. In November 2019, Mecuris won the renowned EIT Digital Tech Founders’ Award in the “Digital Wellbeing” category, an annual award given to the best Deep Technology scale-ups that support digitalization and economic growth in Europe.
“Very few children in Germany need a prosthetic foot, so big manufacturers don’t stock them in children’s sizes,” Mecuris CEO Manuel Opitz said. “But it was easy for us to scale down our digital model of our prosthetic foot for adults, while including requirements such as the minimum thickness of materials.”
It was important that Emma would feel happy wearing her new foot—so it had to fit the way she would move and grow, and look like something a young girl would choose. Her favorite color and animal became essential ingredients
“It’s crucial to go out there and ask the wearers what they want,” Opitz said. “The best therapy is worth nothing if the patients do not accept it, and an individualized design is very important for that acceptance.” Thanks to 3D printing, there are no limits to function, color and form—a milestone in the development of modern prosthetics and orthotics that the company is developing together with certified prosthetists and orthotists.
Emma loves her pink foot, which is decorated with horses. She runs, dances and jumps like any other girl of her age, and her self- confidence has grown. Her foot is such a positive fashion statement that some of her friends have even asked if they can have “a pink foot like Emma’s.”
As well as giving Emma the foot she wants, 3D printing enables new versions to be created quickly and at lower cost than conventional methods—especially important for a growing child who may need a new foot every few months.
As Emma grows, affordable, 3D-printed feet can be sized to match. Mecuris uses generative design to extrapolate the new foot’s shape and size dynamically from a single measurement, such as the length of her other foot—making it quick and easy to adapt and print a bigger model. “We can scale up the model and provide Emma very quickly with a new version,” Opitz said. “It was very quick to use the 3D file we had previously created or go back to some parameters and generate a larger design.”
And as Emma’s tastes change, so do the vital ingredients for making her proud to wear them: she has asked for a blue foot next, along with a red, waterproof one for going outside.
Learn more about Mecuris