Social Impact

3D PrintAbility: Lower Leg Prosthetics

We've talked about the 3D Printability project before - it's an Autodesk Research partnership with CBM Canada and the Semaphore Lab at the University of Toronto to bring down the cost and time required to develop lower leg prosthetics.


The team has a great video outlining the challenge and how they're rising to meet it!

Imagine My City Brings you a Virtual Reality Toronto

Imagine My City, a not-for-profit organization driven to enable and increase productive and meaningful community-based collaboration in issues related to our built environment, has been working with a number of partners including Autodesk and George Brown College to create a virtual reality model of Toronto. The City VR project showcases the use of mobile and immersive technologies to empower citizens to reimagine and share their aspirations about the kind of city they would like to inhabit.


Everyone is invited to stop by and see how virtual reality can help discussions around community and city planning at Toronto City Hall's 50th Anniversary on September 13, 2015.

Toronto CityVR Imagine My CityPlease help spread the news on these event by using the sharing buttons below.

Toronto's Civic Design Camp - The Keynotes

Toronto, and Canada's, first Civic Design Camp was held on Friday, June 26 bringing together designers, public servants, and civic innovators to harness the power of design to create better citizen experiences and tackle public challenges. Autodesk Research participated to learn and help people imagine, design and create a better world.

Civic Design Camp

Toronto's Civic Design Camp was hosted at MaRS by Joeri van den Steenhoven of the MaRS Solution Lab (MSL). MSL is currently collaborating on four challenges with citizens, government, foundations, corporations, and NGOs:

  • Future of Health
  • Future of Food
  • Future of Work and Learning
  • Future of Government

Joeri kicked off the day and introduced three great speakers on design challenges, approaches and obligations towards improving citizen involvement for creating a better world:

Nigel explained that New Urban Mechanics is the R+D lab for the Mayor of Boston. They cast a wide net for ideas, try them out as quickly and cheaply as possible and embrace failure as success - if they're not failing, they're not trying enough new and different things - failure leads to innovation.

Nigel talked about a bunch of the projects they had worked on. One of the coolest being the mobile city hall; a truck that can drive around to different neighbourhoods offering many of the city services like access to marriage and pet licenses.


Katie Verigen summed up Nigel's three main points with respect to citizens and governement working together in her sketchnotes as:

  1. Good design makes people like you
  2. Good design encourages real conversations
  3. Good design is about learning

Cdc3Next up was Jess McMullin talking about Big Picture Design and the interconnectedness of systems, strategy, policy and delivery caught in a rising storm of complexity. His first example was of water pipes breaking in a hospital in Edmonton. Getting this fixed seems like an easy thing to do but factor in the oil-based economy and current low prices and it becomes more complicated. Things that seem easy, can result in problems if you don't keep the big picture in mind when designing - a couple other examples:

  • Florida's butterfly ballot that confused and disappointed voters
  • Presto transit cards and the complications for setting up payments


Going further, Jess talked about Healthcare.Gov placing one big bet on 80 contractors versus breaking the challenge down into chunks and making some smaller, less risky bets. Their focus on the interface lost out to cultural issues.

In looking at the big picture, spend time up front where the cost of changes is low.


As a positive example, he used the California State Tax Ready Return that does your taxes for you. It sends you the statement and if you agree, you just pay what it says. This is easy fir tax payers and easier for the government to collect - everybody's happy (at least relatively).

The third and final keynote speaker was Dana Chisnell, co-founder of the Center for Civic Design. Dana had a number of great points for civic designers to consider when engaging with government:

  • Government wants technology but needs design: this doesn't mean that designers should charge in thinking they will save the day. They should bring their skills in gently and help to train public servants in good design practice. They should be patient and solve one problem at a time 
  • Government is filled with designers but they don't have design in their job title or description: Like any designer, these people take charge, they solve problems with passion and ingenuity.

 And perhaps Dana's most important note on design: focus on problems!


In an upcoming post we'll talk about the Civic Design Camp Unconference, design challenges and solutions - see you soon! 

You can see more about the Civic Design Camp from Amanada Judd on Storify:

A Repeatable 3D Printing Process for Low-Cost Prosthetics

Dr. Ryan Schmidt leads the Design and Fabrication group at Autodesk Research and has been working with CBM Canada and Dr. Matt Ratto's Semaphore Lab at the University of Toronto to create a repeatable and inexpensive process for childrens’ prosthetics. The pilot for this project is taking place at CoRSU Hospital in Uganda. Dr. Ratto talks about the project in the following short video.

This project is currently focusing on trans-tibial (below the knee) prosthetics. Above the knee is known as trans-femoral and you may have heard of the complementary prosthetic knee project D-Rev is working on with the Autodesk Foundation. Both of these projects are helping the developing world by reducing costs from thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars down to tens of dollars. 

The team recently went to Uganda to visit the prosthetists at CoRSU hospital to familiarize them with the latest tool developments, get their feedback and test the tools beyond the home lab.

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The prosthetics lab at the hospital is a workshop with a lot of familiar hand tools. Here we see Dr. Ratto from the University of Toronto.

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Prosthetics have two primary parts – the socket for the limb to fit into and the prosthetic limb. Here we see some lower legs with feet. These parts can be reused as the patient grows. 

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The current process is both time-consuming and produces more waste than necessary. The current process requires creating a plaster mold of the residual limband then creating a plaster positive of the limb to vacuum form a plastic socket around. Here we see some plaster positives ready to be discarded.

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Once the plastic socket is created, the hand tools are used to improve the fit and comfort for the patient. Using a 3D scanner (the team is using Sense for this project) provides a better fit without the waste and lets the team go straight to 3D printing a socket.

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The team has taken advantage of the API in Meshmixer to create a wizard to streamline the process of cleaning the scan and preparing it for printing. This can now take as little as thirty minutes.

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This brings the process down from a week to a day. Here Moses Kaweesa from CoRSU inspects a 3D printed socket and the bolt assembly that attaches the prosthetic limb.


Dr. Schmidt works on the digital tools at a more traditional workstation.

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And then takes a break from coding to untangle some filament for the 3D printer. 


And then returning to code again in a more relaxing location. 

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Here is Ruth trying on the first 3D printed socket. She is not only a patient but also a volunteer at the hospital helping to develop this process while pursuing a degree in architecture.

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Ruth`s socket fits and everyone is happy!


If you look closely at the socket Dr. Schmidt is holding you can see a horizontal line in this socket as it was printed in two pieces to increase the delivery time. The two pieces were connected with a mirror welder at the hospital.

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This is Rosaline trying out her new leg. 

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It was a successful trip and the results show that the process is working. In thinking about the predictions of needing 40,000 prosthetists across the developing world, reducing the time for a new limb from a week to a day is very significant. This helps the doctors work with more patients but it also helps the patients save money on travel costs and lodgings during treatment. The time for 3D printing is the longest part of the process so as 3D printers get faster, the process will get even faster. 

All Photos: Semaphore/ginger coons

License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License